The number of child refugees across the world has more than doubled in the past decade, reaching over 8.2 million from four million, UNICEF said in a recent report, adding that 45% of these little refugees are from Syria and Afghanistan.
The five-year Syrian war has claimed the lives of some 300 000 people, most of them women and children, and has driven more than five million from their homes.
The report, published last week, is titled ‘Uprooted: The Growing Crisis for Refugee and Migrant Children’. This astonishing figure forms part of the 50 million children the UN agency said have been uprooted by crises.
In Africa – the hotbed of armed conflicts, poverty and dictatorship – thousands of children have been orphaned and disoriented, while many accompanied teenagers left their homes for a far place to search for food, peace and education. South Sudan, DRC, Somalia, Nigeria, Mozambique (lately), Mali and Zimbabwe have all produced child refugees. Critics have lashed out at warlords and corrupt leaders of these countries for destroying the future of young lives.
UNICEF warns that if governments do not act, the number is likely to grow.
Whether it is from war, violence, poverty or climate change, the youngsters have been uprooted by crises they are not responsible for, or have little influence over, UNICEF said.
As reports of abuse and exploitation of children in the countries of asylum continue to surface, the UN children agency has called for these child refugees to be taken care of by all means.
“They deserve to be protected, they need access to services, such as education,” the report said.
Photo: Child refugees in South Sudan. credit: World Vision