37 million children displaced worldwide, the highest number on record


Conflict, violence and other crises left a record 36.5 million children displaced from their homes at the end of last year, according to estimates by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the number highest recorded since World War II, the agency said on Friday.

This number includes 13.7 million refugee and asylum-seeking children, and nearly 22.8 million internally displaced due to conflict and violence.

However, children displaced by disasters or climatic and environmental shocks, and those newly displaced in 2022, such as those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are not included.

The record number of displaced children is direct consequence of the cascading crisessaid UNICEF, like the large and protracted conflictssuch as Afghanistan, and the fragile situation in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or Yemen, all exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

Prevent further displacement and better protect those already displaced

The displacement of children is skyrocketing, according to the agency. Over the past year, the global number of displaced children increased by 2.2 million.

“We cannot ignore the evidence: the number of children displaced by conflict and crisis is increasing rapidly Y our obligation to protect themUNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said.

“I hope that this alarming figure will mobilize governments to prevent the displacement of more children,” he added, and “in cases where they are already displaced, guarantee their access to education, protection and other essential services to their well-being and development, both now and in the future.”

Crises such as the war in Ukraine, which has caused the flight of more than two million children from the country and the internal displacement of three million since February, add to the main causes of this unprecedented increase.

IOM/Muse Mohammed

Natural disasters caused the displacement of 7.3 million children in 2021.

Displaced by climate change

In addition, children and families have also had to flee their homes due to extreme weather events, UNICEF noted, such as drought in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and severe flooding in Bangladesh, India and South Africa.

In 2021, there was 7.3 million new displacements of children as a result of natural disasters.

The global refugee population has more than doubled in the last decade, with children accounting for almost half of the total. More than a third of displaced children live in sub-Saharan Africa (3.9 million or 36%), a quarter in Europe and Central Asia (2.6 million or 25%), and 13% (1, 4 million) in the Middle East and North Africa.

As the number of displaced and refugee children reaches a record high, access to essential aid and services, such as health care, education and protection, falls short. Only half of refugee children are enrolled in primary school, while less than a quarter of refugee adolescents are in secondary school.

© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII Photo

In Kharkiv, Ukraine, a girl cries as she says goodbye to her father as she boards a special evacuation train with her brother and mother.

victims of trafficking

Children on the move, whether they are refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced persons, can face serious dangers to their well-being and safety. This is particularly alarming in the case of the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied or separated children who are at increased risk of being victims of trafficking, exploitation, violence and abuse. Children represent approximately 28% of victims of trafficking worldwide.

UNICEF urges Member States to fulfill their commitments to the rights of all children on the move, including those set out in the Global Compact for Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration, and to invest more in data and research that reflect the true magnitude of the problems faced by refugee, migrant and displaced children.

© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII Photo

In Kharkiv, Ukraine, a girl cries as she says goodbye to her father as she boards a special evacuation train with her brother and mother.

Six measures for the protection and access to services for children on the move

UNICEF calls on governments to adopt six measures to achieve equal rights and opportunities for all refugee, migrant and displaced children:

  • Provide equitable support to all boys and girls, regardless of their origin
  • Recognize refugee, migrant and displaced minors first and foremost as children and uphold their right to protection, development and participation
  • Increase collective action to ensure effective access to essential services (particularly health care and education) for all children and families on the move, regardless of their status
  • Protect refugee, migrant and displaced children from discrimination and xenophobia
  • End harmful border management practices and the detention of immigrant children
  • Empower young refugees, migrants and displaced people to unleash their talents and fully develop their potential
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