UNICEF estimates that during 2022, extreme weather events have caused an additional 12 million children to be forcibly displaced.
According to the calculations of the children’s rights organization, a total of 43.3 million children will be in a condition of forced displacement this year. For most of them, this will be their experience throughout their childhood.
The number has doubled over the last decade. In particular, the war in Ukraine has forced more than two million children to leave the country and increased the number of internally displaced children in Ukraine to more than one million.
“For more than a decade, the number of children forced to flee their homes has risen at an alarming rate,” explains Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s Executive Director, “and our global capacity to respond remains under serious strain. The increase is in step with the consistent onslaught of conflict, crises and climate disasters around the world. But it also highlights many governments’ underwhelming response to ensure every refugee and internally displaced child can keep learning, stay healthy and develop to their full potential.”
By the end of last year, the number of refugee and asylum-seeking children reached a new record high of 17.5 million – a figure that does not include those displaced in 2023, including as a result of the conflict in Sudan, because of which nearly one million children have had to leave their homes. In addition, extreme weather events, such as floods in Pakistan and drought in the Horn of Africa, displaced an additional 12 million children in 2022.
“Internally displaced and refugee children are often amongst the most vulnerable,” says UNICEF in its press release. Russell stresses that “greater political will is required to address the drivers of displacement and provide long-term solutions for children on the move. A record number of refugee, migrant and displaced children – a global population that rivals that of Algeria, Argentina or even Spain – demands a commensurate response. We have seen sustained change when governments properly invest in the inclusion of displaced children and families. By working together, we can keep them safe, healthy, learning and protected.”
UNICEF is calling on governments to recognize the right to protection, inclusion and participation and to ensure safe and legal pathways for children on the move, ensuring that no child is forced to return without guarantees.