An estimated 19 million children, more than ever before, were living in displacement within their own countries due to conflict and violence in 2019 – some of them for years, UNICEF said in a new report today.
The report, ‘Lost at Home’, looks at the risks and challenges internally displaced children face, and the urgent actions needed to protect them. As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, these children are among the most vulnerable to its direct and indirect impacts.
“Millions of displaced children around the world are already going without proper care and protection,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “When new crises emerge, like the COVID-19 pandemic, these children are especially vulnerable. It is essential that governments and humanitarian partners work together to keep them safe, healthy, learning and protected.”
Internally displaced children lack access to basic services and are at risk of exposure to violence, exploitation, abuse and trafficking, the report says. They are also at risk of child labour, child marriage and family separation which all pose direct threats to their health and safety.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making a critical situation for displaced children and families even worse. They often live in overcrowded camps or informal settlements, where access to basic hygiene and health services is limited, and where physical distancing is not possible. These conditions are highly conducive to the spread of diseases like COVID-19.
According to the report, there were 12 million new displacements of children in 2019, 3.8 million of them were caused by conflict and violence, and 8.2 million by disasters linked mostly to weather-related events like flooding and storms.
Through the report, UNICEF calls for strategic investments and a united effort from governments, civil society, private sector, humanitarian actors and children themselves to address the child-specific drivers of displacement, especially all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse.
UNICEF also calls on governments convening under the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, established by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, to take concrete action and investment that will help provide protection and equitable access to services for all internally displaced children and their families.
Critical to delivering on this agenda is better, timely and accessible data and evidence, disaggregated by age and gender, to improve collective understanding of how internal displacement affects children and their families. Internally displaced children and youth themselves must have a seat at the table, be taken seriously and offered the opportunity to be part of the solution, the report says.