More than 28 million children have been driven out of their homes by conflict and violence worldwide, a report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) says.
The report released in New York said that the figure includes 10 million child refugees and 17 million internally displaced children.
The UNICEF report found that a total of 50 million children are either refugees, internally displaced inside their countries or migrants in search of a better life abroad due to gang violence and poverty.
UNICEF urges countries in the report to look at underage refugees and migrants as children “first and foremost,” who are especially vulnerable to violence and exploitation.
It noted that children made up about half of the world’s refugees seeking shelter abroad in 2015, with 45 per cent of child refugees under the UN’s care coming from Syria and Afghanistan.
The number of children travelling alone rose to 100,000 in 2015 – a three-fold increase from 2014.
“These unaccompanied minors, who are in heightened risk of abuse and exploitation, applied for asylum in 78 countries in 2015.
“About 20 million of them have been classified as child migrants who left their homes because of poverty and gang violence, often traveling without legal documents and lacking legal status,’’ it said.
Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director, said that children living as refugees also face increasing xenophobia and are five-times more likely to be out of school than their non-refugee peers.
“What price will we all pay if we fail to provide these young people with opportunities for education and a more normal childhood.
“How will they be able to contribute positively to their societies.
“If they can’t, not only will their futures be blighted, but their societies will be diminished as well,’’ he said.
Lake said that the report is coming ahead of a UN summit on September 19 where world leaders are set to discuss global migration. (dpa)