Around 30 million children displaced by conflict need protection now and sustainable solutions over the long term

Ahead of World Refugee Day, UNICEF launches ‘What Excites Us, Unites Us’ initiative to engage football fans in support of refugee and migrant children

19 June 2018
Two Syrian boys play football near an empty field in Sanliurfa, Turkey.


NEW YORK, 19 June 2018 – There are now more children forcibly displaced by conflict – an estimated 30 million – than at any other time since the Second World War, UNICEF said on the eve of World Refugee Day. The UN children’s agency went on to warn that these vulnerable children need access to protection and essential services to keep them safe now, as well as sustainable solutions to ensure their wellbeing over the long term.   

Amidst ongoing conversations over a global plan of action in support of refugees, UNICEF is urging world leaders to redouble efforts to secure the rights, safety and wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable children – so many of whom remain displaced by conflict, violence and political instability. 

“On World Refugee Day, it’s important to remember the threats and challenges that children on the move face daily,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Manuel Fontaine. “Uprooted children – whether refugee, asylum seeker or internally displaced – face grave risks to their health and safety, along with significant barriers that limit access to the services they need to thrive. These children need more than just a day – they need hope, opportunities and protection. We call upon member states to renew their commitments to fulfil those children’s rights and aspirations.” 

As the number of forcibly displaced and refugee children has reached record highs, their access to essential support and services like healthcare and education remains deeply compromised. Only half of all refugee children, for example, are enrolled in primary school, while less than a quarter of refugee adolescents are in secondary school.

The global number of refugee and migrant children moving alone has also reached previously unseen levels, increasing nearly five-fold within the five-year period from 2010. At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in 2015-2016, up from 66,000 in 2010-2011. The true figure of children moving alone, however, is likely to be significantly higher. Unaccompanied and separated children are at heightened risk of trafficking, exploitation, violence and abuse. Children account for approximately 28 per cent of trafficking victims globally.

UNICEF hopes the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), as well as the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), to be finalized this year, will serve as the framework for strong member state commitments to the rights of uprooted children around the world. The children’s agency has released a six-point agenda for action to protect refugee and migrant children, including best practice recommendations that can be incorporated into both compacts. 

At a moment when football brings fans together from around the world, UNICEF and creative partner 180LA are also launching the ‘What Excites Us, Unites Us’ initiative rooted in the idea that if love of sport can transcend borders, so too should support for the rights of refugee and migrant children. The campaign is a two-minute web film that tells the story of Santi, an 8-year-old boy who migrated from Bolivia to Spain, had trouble finding friends, and ultimately found acceptance in his new home country through a shared love of football. While playing, Santi and his friends are treated to a surprise visit from their hero, Sergio Ramos (Captain of the Spanish National Football Team and UNICEF ambassador). 

Coinciding with the web film, the ‘longest goal challenge’ will also be launched on social media. To kick off the challenge, Sergio Ramos calls on everyone to unite through their shared passion for football and to express their support to migrant and refugee children by sharing on social media a video of themselves shouting “goaaaaaaal” for as long as possible using #LongestGoal #WorldCup. 

Media contacts

Christopher Tidey
Tel: +1 917 340 3017

Additional resources

Sergio Ramos surprises two of his youngest fans.


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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