Internal Displacement :: Children
Lost at home :: The risks and challenges for internally displaced children and the urgent actions needed to protect them
May 2020 :: 36 pages
Core report team (in alphabetical order): Jan Beise, Claus Hansen, Laura Healy, Sinae Lee, Naomi Lindt, Yukun Pei, Danzhen You
[Excerpt from opening essay; text bolding from original]
Today, more children than ever before are displaced within their own countries. Their harrowing stories of displacement are unfolding every day, and with increasing frequency. At the end of 2019, approximately 45.7 million people were internally displaced by conflict and violence (Fig. 1.1). Nearly half – 19 million – were estimated to be children. And millions more are displaced every year by natural disasters.1
Annually, the number of internally displaced persons regularly outpaces that of refugees, in many recent years at more than twice the total. And while most of those internally displaced do not end up crossing international borders, many will become refugees and vulnerable migrants.2 Internally displaced persons really are the invisible majority of the world’s displaced population.3
Looking ahead, climate-related resource scarcity and conflicts will likely continue to trigger massive – and extensive – displacement. The World Bank estimates there could be more than 140 million people internally displaced by climate by 2050. That’s 100 times the scale of Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis in 2015–2016.4
In many countries around the world, internally displaced children persistently lack access to basic services. This effectively limits or denies them the right to education, health, protection and non-discrimination. These deprivations can be particularly acute in the life of a child. Removed from a stable, secure home and the communities they need to thrive – family, friends, classmates and teachers – internally displaced children are exposed to a host of harms and dangers. Family separation, negative coping strategies such as child labour and child marriage, and violence, exploitation, abuse and trafficking pose direct threats to their lives and futures. Internally displaced persons can be displaced multiple times or live in protracted displacement, their needs and vulnerabilities changing during the process.5 Some become caught up in cyclical displacement, which can mean finding durable solutions is even more difficult.6
Despite its global scale, internal displacement is largely overshadowed by the current political and public focus on refugees and migrants. Two United Nations (UN) agreements, the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees,7 set objectives aligned with the commitment to leave no one behind captured in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.8 Yet despite the fact that the first step for many refugees and migrants in displacement is within their own borders, neither compact explicitly addresses the concerns of internally displaced people. Internal displacement requires global action. In response to a UN General Assembly Resolution on Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons, a three-year GP20 Plan of Action was launched to strengthen collaboration in addressing the challenges of internal displacement.9 The establishment of the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement in late 2019 aims to bring about concrete and long-term solutions to these challenges.10…
19 million children internally displaced by conflict and violence in 2019, highest number ever
Internally displaced children among the world’s most vulnerable to COVID-19
NEW YORK, 5 May 2020 – An estimated 19 million children, more than ever before, were living in displacement within their own countries due to conflict and violence in 2019 – some of them for years, UNICEF said in a new report today.
The report, ‘Lost at Home’, looks at the risks and challenges internally displaced children face, and the urgent actions needed to protect them. As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, these children are among the most vulnerable to its direct and indirect impacts.
“Millions of displaced children around the world are already going without proper care and protection,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “When new crises emerge, like the COVID-19 pandemic, these children are especially vulnerable. It is essential that governments and humanitarian partners work together to keep them safe, healthy, learning and protected.”
Internally displaced children lack access to basic services and are at risk of exposure to violence, exploitation, abuse and trafficking, the report says. They are also at risk of child labour, child marriage and family separation which all pose direct threats to their health and safety.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making a critical situation for displaced children and families even worse. They often live in overcrowded camps or informal settlements, where access to basic hygiene and health services is limited, and where physical distancing is not possible. These conditions are highly conducive to the spread of diseases like COVID-19.
According to the report, there were 12 million new displacements of children in 2019, 3.8 million of them were caused by conflict and violence, and 8.2 million by disasters linked mostly to weather-related events like flooding and storms.
Through the report, UNICEF calls for strategic investments and a united effort from governments, civil society, private sector, humanitarian actors and children themselves to address the child-specific drivers of displacement, especially all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse.
UNICEF also calls on governments convening under the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, established by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, to take concrete action and investment that will help provide protection and equitable access to services for all internally displaced children and their families.
Critical to delivering on this agenda is better, timely and accessible data and evidence, disaggregated by age and gender, to improve collective understanding of how internal displacement affects children and their families. Internally displaced children and youth themselves must have a seat at the table, be taken seriously and offered the opportunity to be part of the solution, the report says.