Conflict, violence and other crises left a record 36.5 million children displaced from their homes at the end of 2021, UNICEF estimates which is the highest number recorded since the Second World War.
This figure includes 13.7 million refugee and asylum-seeking children† and nearly 22.8 million children who are internally displaced due to conflict and violence.
These figures do not include children displaced by climate and environmental shocks or disasters, as well as those newly displaced in 2022, including by the war in Ukraine.
Additionally, children and families are also being driven from their homes by extreme weather events, such as by drought in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and severe flooding in Bangladesh, India and South Africa.
There were 7.3 million new displacements of children as a consequence of natural disasters in 2021.
The record number of children displaced is a direct result of cascading crises – including acute and protracted conflicts such as in Afghanistan, fragility in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Yemen and linked shocks exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.
Just like fragility, child displacement is spreading fast. During the previous year, the global number of displaced children increased by 2.2 million.
"We can't ignore the evidence: The number of children being displaced by conflict and crises is rapidly growing – and so is our responsibility to reach them," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell on Friday.
"I hope this alarming number will move governments to prevent children from being displaced in the first place – and when they are displaced, to ensure their access to education, protection, and other critical services that support their wellbeing and development now and in the future."
Crises like the war in Ukraine – which has caused more than 2 million children to flee the country and displaced 3 million internally since February – come on top of this record high.
The global refugee population has more than doubled in the last decade, with children making up almost half of the total.
Uprooted children – whether refugee, asylum seeker or internally displaced – can face grave risks to their well-being and safety.
This is particularly true for the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied or separated children who are at heightened risk of trafficking, exploitation, violence and abuse. Children account for approximately 34 per cent of detected trafficking victims globally.
UNICEF urged Member States to adhere to their commitments to the rights of all uprooted children, including commitments established under the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), and to invest further in data and research that reflects the true scale of the issues facing refugee, migrant and displaced children.