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Australia's drought leading to 'suffering' of children, UN warns

February 20, 2019 5:18 am

A prolonged drought in Australia is having a devastating impact on children and forcing them to “grow up” prematurely, a UN report warns.

Large parts of eastern Australia have endured severe drought for months, crippling farming communities.

Children in these areas are resilient but endure a growing psychological toll, said the UN’s children’s agency.

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Many children have “long and stressful” days that involve witnessing strain on their parents and animals, Unicef said.

“Workloads for children on and off farms have increased substantially, leaving little time for schoolwork and almost no time for play, sport or other recreational activities,” the agency said in its report.

One high school student told researchers: “Before the start of this year I’d never shot a lamb in my life – and I’ve done probably about 50 or so this year… it is just normal now.”

Others described high levels of stress at home, with one girl saying: “You’re walking on eggshells.”

Unicef released the report on Tuesday after interviewing children aged five-16 from rural communities in New South Wales, a state that is entirely drought-affected.

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