Internally displaced Somali women sit with their children as they wait for malnutrition screening at the Dollow hospital in Dollow, Gedo Region, Somalia May 24, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]
UNITED NATIONS — An unprecedented 36.5 million children were displaced by conflict, violence and other crises by the end of 2021, the highest number since World War II, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported Friday.
The figure, which increased by 2.2 million in 2021, includes 13.7 million child refugees and asylum-seekers and nearly 22.8 million internally displaced due to conflict and violence, according to the agency’s press release.
Children displaced by climate and environmental shocks and disasters, and those displaced in 2022, including by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, are not included in the report.
The record number is a direct result of cascading crises, including “acute and protracted conflicts such as in Afghanistan, and fragility in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Yemen — all exacerbated by the destructive impacts of climate change,” the report said.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said she hopes the alarming number will move governments to prevent children from being displaced and ensure the access of those displaced to education, protection and other critical services.
Only half of all refugee children are enrolled in primary schools, while less than a quarter of refugee adolescents are in secondary schools, as a record number of displaced and refugee children are in need of support and services like healthcare, education and protection, according to the report.
Unaccompanied or separated children, in particular, are facing a high risk of trafficking, exploitation, violence and abuse, the agency said, adding that globally, children make up approximately 28 percent of victims of human trafficking.