23 May 2022 - Global

Conflict, climate disasters drive number of internally displaced children to record 25 million in 2021

Bailasan*, 13, and her mother Maryam*, 50, walk by the river where drought has caused a water crisis in North East Syria

Conflict, violence, and climate-related disasters drove the number of internally displaced children up by nearly 10% to a record 25.2 million in 2021, Save the Children said, with fears this will rise further in 2022 with millions forced from their homes in Ukraine.

Newly released annual data from the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) showed the number of people living in internal displacement globally hit a record 59.1million at the end of 2021, up from 55 million a year earlier.

The number of children uprooted rose from 23 million in 2020 to 25.2 million in 2021 – equivalent to the population of Australia or Niger.

During 2021, 38 million people were displaced across 141 countries and territories, the second highest annual figure in a decade after 2020’s record-breaking year for disaster displacement. Natural disasters accounted for most of this movement, but the number forced from their homes by conflict and violence also reached the highest record, at 14.4 million.

All-time highs were registered in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan.

Children make up 42% of the world’s displaced people, with millions forced to flee their homes every year leaving many unable to go to school, without enough to eat, with little access to healthcare, at risk of abuse and violence, and traumatised by the events they have witnessed.

Financial difficulties can force children into dangerous activities, including crime, transactional sex, or joining armed groups.

But Save the Children said children remain largely invisible in displacement data - particularly those who are uprooted but remain in their own countries - which makes it hard to understand their needs, aspirations, and potential and to identify appropriate policy ad programme responses.

Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International, speaking ahead of the official launch of the 2022 Global Report on Internal Displacement on Monday, said it was critical to invest more to understand what drives displacement and the unique impact the interplay of causes and effects have on children:

“Children across the world are displaced in horrifying numbers. We know that displacement has long-term impacts on children.  I’ve just come from Mozambique where I’ve seen, for example, how child protection and education risks are exacerbated during displacement. 

“When we look at the impact of displacement, we need to keep in mind that children are affected in ways that are different from adults’ experiences. We need to act urgently and keep children’s rights at the centre of our responses to internal displacement.”

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