Unicef says 28 million children uprooted by global conflict
UNITED NATIONS // Some 28 million children around the globe have been driven from their homes by violent conflict, with nearly as many abandoning their homes in search of a better life, Unicef said.
While children make up about a third of the world’s population as of 2015, they accounted for nearly half of all refugees, with the number of child refugees having doubled in the last decade, according to a Unicef report released on Tuesday.
The report estimates another 20 million children are migrants, driven from their homes by poverty and gang violence among other things.
Children, often already traumatised by violence, risk drowning in sea crossings, falling into the hands of traffickers, kidnapping, rape and murder, it said.
“Indelible images of individual children - Aylan Kurdi’s small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh’s stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed - have shocked the world,” Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said.
“But each picture, each girl or boy, represents many millions of children in danger - and this demands that our compassion for the individual children we see be matched with action for all children,” he said.
Syrian toddler Kurdi drowned in the Mediterranean last year as his family tried to reach Greece. Daqneesh has become the most recent searing image of the suffering of Syria’s children during more than five years of war.
Unicef’s global policy chief David Anthony said the report, which compiles comprehensive global data on refugee and migrant children, was “a sad and sobering wake-up call”.
According to Unicef, there were 10 million child refugees and one million child asylum-seekers, whose status had not yet been determined. The remaining 17 million children displaced by conflict remained within their home countries’ borders.
The report said 45 per cent of the children refugees came from just two countries: Syria and Afghanistan.
Increasingly, these children are travelling alone, with 100,000 unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in 78 countries in 2015, three times the number in 2014, the report found. Because these children often lack documents, they are especially vulnerable.
When they arrive in other countries they often face discriminations and xenophobia, the report stated.
“The world hears the stories of child refugees one child at a time and the world is able to bring support to that child, but when we talk about millions it provokes incredible outrage and underscores the need to address the growing problem,” said Emily Garin, the author of the report.
“What’s important is that these children on the move are children. And they should be treated as children,” said Ted Chaiban, Unicef director of programmes in Geneva. “They deserve to be protected. They need access to services, such as education.”
Entitled Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children, the report calls on the international community to provide protection, education and health services to these children and asks governments to address the root causes contributing to the large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
* Associated Press and Reuters
Published: September 7, 2016 04:00 AM