Global number of displaced children reaches new high amid Ukraine war


(LONDON) — The global number of children forcibly displaced from their homes reached a record 43.3 million by the end of 2022, fueled by conflicts such as the war in Ukraine, according to estimates released Wednesday by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

That figure has doubled in the last decade, UNICEF said, despite efforts to integrate and protect displaced children. Of the 43.3 million children living in forced displacement by the end of last year, 25.8 million — almost 60% — were internally displaced by conflict and violence. Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine forced more than two million Ukrainian children to flee the country and displaced over one million children inside Ukraine, according to the estimates.

Moreover, extreme weather events around the world, including the catastrophic drought in the Horn of Africa and the unprecedented floods in Pakistan, led to another 12 million displacements of children over the course of 2022. The worldwide number of refugee and asylum-seeking children also hit a new high of 17.5 million by the end of last year, according to UNICEF estimates.

“For more than a decade, the number of children forced to flee their homes has risen at an alarming rate, and our global capacity to respond remains under serious strain,” UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

Most of these children will spend their entire childhoods in displacement, according to UNICEF. Refugee and internally displaced children are among the most vulnerable, with many denied access to education and health care.

The estimates came as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees announced Wednesday that the global number of people living in forced displacement has climbed to a record 110 million, spurred by Sudan’s eight-week-old conflict.

“Greater political will is required to address the drivers of displacement and provide long-term solutions for children on the move,” Russell added. “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.”

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