Conflicts, violence and other crises currently raging around the world have led to the displacement of 36.5 million children by the end of 2021, according to the UNICEF estimates – the highest number since World War II. This figure includes 13.7 million refugee and asylum-seeking children† and nearly 22.8 million children displaced within their own countries due to conflict and violence.

This data does not take into account children displaced by disasters or climatic and environmental disasters, nor those who were recently displaced in 2022, in particular due to the war in Ukraine.

This sad record of displaced children is the direct consequence of the succession of crises currently facing the world – notably the intensification and prolongation of conflicts such as in Afghanistan, the situations of fragility experienced by certain countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo or Yemen and the resulting shocks, themselves aggravated by the effects of climate change. Reflecting this fragility, the displacement of children is spreading rapidly. Over the past year, the number of displaced children worldwide has increased by 2.2 million.

“We cannot deny the obvious: the number of children displaced by conflict and crises is growing rapidly – ​​and so is our responsibility for them,” said Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF. “I hope these alarming figures will inspire governments to prevent the displacement of children in the first place – and when they are displaced, to ensure they have access to education, protection and other essential services. to their well-being and development, today and tomorrow. »

Crises like the war in Ukraine – which has forced more than 2 million children to flee abroad and displaced 3 million within their own country since February – add to this historical number, not to mention extreme weather events, such as drought in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and severe flooding in Bangladesh, India and South Africa, which also force children and their families to abandon their home. An additional 7.3 million children were displaced by natural disasters in 2021.

The global refugee population has more than doubled over the past decade, with children accounting for nearly half of them. More than a third of displaced children (3.9 million or 36%) live in sub-Saharan Africa, a quarter (2.6 million or 25%) in Europe and Central Asia and 13% (1.4 million) in the Middle East and North Africa.

As the number of displaced and refugee children reaches unprecedented levels, access to essential support services such as health care, education and protection is insufficient. Only around two-thirds of refugee children are enrolled in elementary school, and only around one-third of refugee adolescents attend secondary school.

Uprooted children – whether refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced – face serious risks to their well-being and safety. This is particularly true for the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied or separated children who are at heightened risk of trafficking, exploitation, violence or abuse. Children represent approximately 34% of identified victims of human trafficking worldwide.

In light of this, UNICEF urges Member States to honor their commitments to the rights of all uprooted children, including pledges made under the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration, and to invest more in data and research that truly reflect the magnitude of the challenges faced by refugee, migrant and displaced children.

UNICEF is also calling on governments to take the following six steps to ensure equal rights and opportunities for refugee, migrant and displaced children:

  1. Provide the same support to all children – wherever they come from;
  2. Treat refugee, migrant and displaced children first and foremost as children – who have the right to protection, development and participation;
  3. Intensify collective action to ensure access to essential services – including health care and education – for all uprooted children and their families, regardless of their status;
  4. Protect refugee, migrant and displaced children from discrimination and xenophobia;
  5. End harmful practices in border management and the detention of migrant children; and
  6. Empower young refugees, migrants and displaced people to express their talents and realize their full potential.

Source: UN Children’s Fund

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