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New York, 19 June 2013: UNHCR says forced global displacement at an 18-year high

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1625/Holt
A woman and her children, fleeing conflict in the nearby city of Goma, walk on a road in the province of North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. A new report from UNHCR says there are more than 42 million people displaced, mostly by conflict.

By Chris Niles

“These truly are alarming numbers. They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them.” 
–António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and head of UNHCR.

NEW YORK, 19 June 2013 – More than seven million children are refugees, and a new report by UNHCR says global forced displacement is the highest it’s been for 18 years.

The report, Global Trends 2012, was released to coincide with World Refugee Day.


Listen to children talk about their experiences of being displaced. Watch in RealPlayer

“We need a clinic”

At the end of 2012, more than 45.2 million people had been driven from their homes. That includes 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers and 28.8 million people displaced within their own borders.

Life as a refugee for children is particularly difficult and traumatic. They are denied the safety of a home, school and peace. They often witness violence and are subject to abuse and harrowing living conditions – and they face an uncertain future. The mental and physical toll cannot be understated.

War is the predominant reason children are refugees. Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Sudan produce just over half of refugees. 

They include people like Hana, 10, who lives in an informal settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Conditions are bad, and many children lack even shoes to wear.

“We need a clinic so that when anyone gets sick, he can be cured,” she said. “We need a school. The most important thing is the school.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0040/Ramoneda
A boy stands in a makeshift encampment for Syrian refugees, in the Akkar Valley in Lebanon. The UNHCR report says that, of the 15.4 million people who are refugees, more than seven million are children.


“No electricity at all”

For 32 years, conflict in Afghanistan has forced the most people to leave their homes. Somalia is second, followed by Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic.

The number of internally displaced people, at 28.8 million in 2012, is the highest in more than two decades. The two countries most affected are the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Syrian Arab Republic.

“Sometimes they cut off the water here, and there’s no electricity at all,” says Israa Masri, 12, who lives in the Bab Al Salama camp on the Syrian–Turkish border.

The number of unaccompanied or separated children is also at a record high, according to UNHCR. It says that 21,300 asylum seekers in 2012 were children.

“It’s very hard living here”

UNICEF works closely with UNHCR to meet the needs of refugees and displaced persons. The sister agencies provide water and sanitation, education, child protection and nutrition.

UNICEF also funds programmes that give children a creative outlet, such as photography.

“I want to show others through my pictures the atmosphere in the camp and that it’s very hard living here,” said Amja Belini, 18, who is living in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

About 8 per cent of Jordan’s population is now Syrian refugees. Because a disproportionate burden for hosting refugees falls on developing countries, UNICEF also works with host communities to ensure that they have the resources to cope.

 

 
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