Nearly 50 million children have been uprooted across the globe, 28 million of them by violence and conflicts raging worldwide, according to a new report released Wednesday by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Children are “driven from their homes by conflicts not of their making, and millions more migrating in the hope of finding a better, safer life,” a UNICEF statement on the report says.
“Indelible images of individual children – Aylan Kurdi’s small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh’s stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed – have shocked the world,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake on the report.
“But each picture, each girl or boy, represents many millions of children in danger – and this demands that our compassion for the individual children we see be matched with action for all children.”
Images of the body of drowned 3-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan provoked worldwide reaction when they were released last September.
In August, the world was moved by the viral video of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, that captured the first moments after he was pulled from the rubble after an airstrike leveled his family’s home.
The report says children represent a disproportionate and growing proportion of those who have sought refuge outside their countries of birth: they make up about a third of the global population but about half of all refugees. In 2015, around 45 percent of all child refugees under UN refugee agency’s protection were from Syria and Afghanistan.
Among the 28 million forcibly displaced, 10 million are child refugees, 1 million are asylum-seekers whose refugee status has not yet been determined and an estimated 17 million children have been displaced within their own countries – children in dire need of humanitarian assistance and access to critical services.
More and more children are crossing borders on their own, the report says. More than 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 countries in 2015 – triple the number in 2014. Unaccompanied children are among those at the highest risk of exploitation and abuse, including by smugglers and traffickers.
Turkey hosts the largest total number of recent refugees, and very likely the largest number of child refugees in the world, according to the report.
Relative to its population, Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees by an overwhelming margin: Roughly 1 in 5 people in Lebanon is a refugee. By comparison, there is approximately 1 refugee for every 530 people in the United Kingdom; and 1 for every 1,200 in the United States.