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Children on the move

Running from conflict and violence

UNICEF Image: Boy sits on a pile of rubble
© UNICEF/UN029879/Al-Issa
A child from the al-Hamadaniyah neighbourhood of western Aleppo, among about 35,000 people displaced by fighting there. Like many others, he is now staying at a temporary shelter.


You only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
                   --Warsan Shire

Some come from places where war is without end.

The numbers of protracted emergencies – conflicts that have lasted for over five years – are growing.

As well, fifteen new conflicts have broken out or reignited in the past five years.

They flee the brutalities of civil war and gang-related violence, assault, rape, recruitment, disappearance and murder.

7.6 million Syrian children in need of humanitarian assistance with more than three million children internally displaced. Across the region another two million Syrian children now live as refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. Most live in poverty.

In Afghanistan, one in five children is born in a refugee camp; one of every four children dies before his or her fifth birthday; only 10 percent of pregnant women receive maternal health care; and only 3 percent of girls, and 39 percent of boys, are enrolled in school.

In Africa, one-third of all children live in fragile and conflict-affected contexts – with increasing competition over access to natural resources and land which are continually diminishing as a result of climate change and unsustainable demographic pressure. South Sudan and Somalia have known nothing but conflict for decades, displacing millions of people.

“When we came to the [Protection of Civilians site], it was crowded, the insecurity was too much inside and outside, the area flooded, we were sheltering in tents. It was impossible to find a school.” Sixteen-year-old Nyaruon, 16, South Sudan.

In Central America hundreds of thousands of children flee situations of harm and violence, including gang-related violence, murder, disappearance, assault, and rape and recruitment. Central America is one of the most dangerous places to be a child, with El Salvador having the highest rates of child murder in the world, followed by neighbouring Guatemala.

And in Asia nearly 170,000 refugees and migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh are estimated to have made the dangerous journey from the Bay of Bengal since 2012.

But as the crises mount and linger, refugees and migrants are taking longer journeys to find safety and a future. Europe has been the destination in the past year of more than one million asylum seekers.

Read more about UNICEF and children on the move:

What happens to a child's brain during conflict? (video)
More than 86.7 million children under the age of 7 have spent their entire lives in conflict zones, putting their brain development at risk. During the first 7 years of life a child’s brain has the potential to activate 1,000 brain cells every second but the trauma from living in conflict can limit that development.

Born into conflict (photo essay)
Every two seconds, a child takes his or her first breath in a conflict zone.
Among refugee and migrant children on the move, the risks to newborns and mothers are especially acute. Worldwide, more than 16 million babies were born into conflict this year.

Bitsaiah’s journey of despair and hope
17 February 2016 – Nine-year old Bitsaiah was afraid and exhausted by the time she reached Šid, a small town in Serbia, only a few kilometres away from the Croatian border. She was separated from her parents and younger brother who were stranded in Greece. All Bitsaiah wanted was to be with her family.

Lost identities
BERLIN, December 2015 — The numbers are staggering: more than a million refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea in 2015. In December, at processing centers in transit countries as the masses move towards Germany, Sweden and Austria, it wasn’t uncommon to have between 7,000 and 8,000 people processed in a 24-hour period. 



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