A carefree childhood is rarely possible for children and young people on the run. When war and conflict force them to flee, many have to take on the role of adults almost overnight, shouldering far too much responsibility for their young age. This can cause long-lasting harm to their healthy development, leaving many children with scars on body and soul.
Children and young people on the run have many of the same needs as other refugees: protection, shelter, food, water, medicine, etc. But on top of that, there are special concerns affecting children and young people that make them even more vulnerable than others on the run.
Alone on the run without mom and dad (link)
According to the UN, in 2019 there were 153,300 children under the age of 18 on the run outside of their countries of origin and unaccompanied or separated from their parents. Many refugee children are never registered, however, so the real number is likely to be far higher. Children and young people on the run without adult protection are at grave risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.
About half of all school-age refugee children do not go to school. In many refugee families, children instead work to help put food on the table. This child labor, though common, is detrimental to their physical, mental, social, and educational development.
Read more about child labor (link)
Children and young people on the run are also at greater risk of being married off at an early age. Desperate parents who cannot feed their family often feel they have no other choice.
As an example, there has been a surge in child marriage among Syrian girls since the war there broke out. In neighboring Lebanon, 41% of Syrian refugee girls are officially married before the age of 18, plus an unknown but significant number of unregistered child marriages, unseen in the official figures.
Case-LINK: Waed married at 16 and is now a teenage mother in a refugee camp – she hopes her daughter can have a better life
Read more about child marriages
We believe that all people on the run should have as dignified and normal of a life as possible. When it comes to children and young people, a normal life means:
DRC Danish Refugee Council is present in 40 countries, and in 2018 our assistance reached more than 5.7 million people. Of these, about 2.3 million were children and young people under 18 years of age. We conduct a wide range of interventions that support children and young people on the run. Here are some examples:
When the poorest refugee families receive financial support, it greatly benefits their children. With this support, the likelihood of parents sending their children to school increases, and the risk of child labor and child marriage decreases.
We operate numerous Child Friendly Spaces - a free, safe space where children can play, be children, and forget about everyday worries. Here they can also receive psychosocial support and adult guidance on specific problems from our social workers, available to discuss with them in confidence.
We work to rebuild schools that have been destroyed and help ensure that children are able to return to class. We have mentoring schemes and other programs where we advise children and young people on education and a future in the labor market.
Like all other children and young people, refugee children have the right to a childhood and a future. But if children and young people are truly to have a future, we have to invest in it.
That’s why we work to make sure that these children are not trapped by disillusionment and injustice, but that they can grow freely and fulfill their inherent potential, becoming tomorrow's inventors, job creators, national team players, master craftsmen, and more. Because they need it, and society does too.
So let us work together to ensure that children and young people on the run can pursue their dreams of brighter future.
Any amount, large or small, is much appreciated.