By Cecilia Ologunagba
Conflict, violence and other crises left a record 36.5 million children displaced from their homes globally at the end of 2021, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
UNICEF, in a statement released on Friday, stated that the figure was the highest number recorded since the Second World War.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the figure includes: 13.7 million child-refugees and asylum-seekers, and nearly 22.8 million who were internally-displaced due to conflicts and violence.
However, not included are the children displaced by climate and environmental shocks or disasters as well as those newly-displaced in 2022, including by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The record number of children displaced is a direct result of cascading crises, the agency said.
According to UNICEF, this includes acute and protracted conflicts, such as those in Afghanistan, and fragility in countries like Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or Yemen, all exacerbated by the destructive impacts of climate change.
“Child displacement is spreading fast,” the agency said, adding that during the previous year, the global number of displaced children increased by 2.2 million.
“We can’t ignore the evidence: the number of children being displaced by conflicts and crises is rapidly growing, and so is our responsibility to reach them.
“I hope this alarming number will move governments to prevent children from being displaced in the first place.
“And when they are displaced, to ensure their access to education, protection and other critical services that support their wellbeing and development now and in the future,” UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell said.
According to UNICEF, crises like the war in Ukraine, which has caused more than two million children to flee the country and displaced three million internally since February, come on top of this high record.
Additionally, children and families are also being driven from their homes by extreme weather events, UNICEF said, citing the drought in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel as well as the severe flooding in Bangladesh, India and South Africa.
In 2021, there were 7.3 million new displacements of children as consequences of natural disasters.
The global refugee population has more than doubled in the last decade, with children making up almost half of the total.
More than a third of displaced children live in Sub-Saharan Africa (3.9 million or 36 per cent), one quarter in Europe and Central Asia (2.6 million or 25 per cent) and 13 per cent (1.4 million) in the Middle East and North Africa.
As the number of displaced and refugee children reaches a record high, access to essential support and services like healthcare, education and protection is falling short.
Only half of all refugee children are enrolled in primary school, while less than a quarter of adolescent-refugees are in secondary school.