Nearly 37 million children have been displaced worldwide, the highest number ever recorded

New York, June 17, 2022 Conflicts, violence and other crises currently affecting the world have displaced 36.5 million children by the end of 2021, according to UNICEF estimates – the highest number recorded since World War II. This number includes 13.7 million refugee and asylum-seeking children – and nearly 22.8 million children displaced within their own countries by conflict and violence.

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

This sad record of displaced children is a direct result of the succession of crises the world is currently facing – in particular the intensification and protracted conflicts such as in Afghanistan, and the fragility experienced by some countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Yemen. The resulting shocks, which are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Reflecting this fragility, child displacement is spreading rapidly. Over the past year, the number of homeless children worldwide increased by 2.2 million.

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

Crises such as the war in Ukraine – which has forced more than 2 million children to flee abroad and displaced 3 million inside their country since February – add to this historic figure, not to mention extreme weather events, such as droughts in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and severe floods in Bangladesh, India and South Africa. Africa, which is also forcing children and their families to leave their homes. An additional 7.3 million children were displaced by natural disasters in 2021.

The number of refugees in the world has more than doubled over the past decade, nearly half of them being children. 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 basic support services such as health care, education and protection is insufficient. Only about two-thirds of refugee children are enrolled in primary school, and only about one-third of refugee adolescents go to secondary school.

Displaced children – whether they are refugees, asylum seekers or IDPs – face grave risks to their well-being and safety. This is especially true for the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied or separated children who are at increased 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 fulfill their commitments to the rights of all displaced 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 reflects the scale. Among the challenges faced by refugee, migrant and displaced children.

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

  1. Offer the same support to all children – wherever they come from;
  2. Treat refugee, migrant and displaced children first and foremost as children – with the right to protection, development and participation;
  3. Intensify collective action to ensure access to essential services – including health care and education – for all displaced 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 detention of migrant children; And the
  6. Empowering refugee, migrant and displaced youth to express their talents and realize their full potential.


Note to editors:

† This figure includes refugees under the jurisdiction of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), respectively, as well as children of Venezuelan origin displaced abroad. As published separately by UNHCR.

UNICEF heads the Secretariat of the International Data Alliance for Children on the Move (IDAC), and thus leads global efforts to increase the availability and quality of data to improve the fate of displaced children. read more over here.

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