World Vision: Forgotten child refugee crises – Hunger, violence and death rates increase for refugees globally as funding diverted to Ukraine

NNA - global report, launched today by international aid agency World Vision, says that life for refugees in eleven countries around the world has deteriorated significantly within the past two years, especially for the children among them.   

The report entitled “Hungry and unprotected children: The forgotten refugees” surveyed refugees and internally displaced people from countries such as Syria, South Sudan and Venezuela and found that 82% are not able to meet basic needs required for children to survive, such as food, healthcare or rent. More than a third of respondents (35%) reported that their children, who should be growing, had lost weight over the last 12 months. 

Andrew Morley, World Vision International President and CEO, said: “Children in fragile countries across the world are facing a crushing tsunami of hunger – with refugees and internally displaced children among the most vulnerable. Our staff are already based in these places and are responding right now. But they urgently need more support and funding to continue this life-saving work, as food prices rocket and communities reel from the deadly impacts of climate change, conflict and Covid-19.

“The individual stories are heart-breaking, including those I have heard from girls and boys who fled their homes in Venezuela, Syria and Ukraine – often plunging their families into a spiral of uncertainty, hunger and violence. On World Refugee Day, we stand by each and every child in this devastating situation, doing everything in our power to ensure they reach their God-given potential in life.” 

The safety of refugee children is also under threat, as many find it impossible to access the services they urgently need. With just 4% of child protection funded globally against its appealed amount, it is the least funded humanitarian sector. This is at a time when needs are increasing. Half of the refugee children do not have access to a safe shelter and 44% do not have access to other child protection services, a 13% increase from 2021. Many refugee and internally displaced children are missing out on education, along with the security and support of being in a classroom, with the number of families reporting that they do not have the resources to send their children to school doubling between 2021 and 2022.  

“During the COVID-19 pandemic families around the world worried about their children missing out on education. But those worries were short lived for many, as most children in the world’s wealthier countries have returned to school and normalcy. Unfortunately, for millions of refugee children, education is a fantasy of the past, one that they may never return to. Instead, many face a new reality of child marriage and child labour. The injustice is palpable,” said Justin Byworth, World Vision International’s Global Humanitarian Director.

The global report also found that health had deteriorated for many refugees, with one in four of those surveyed reporting the death of a family member in the past year. Almost half of those deaths were due to COVID-19 as vaccine access remain inequitable. The world’s least wealthy countries received just 1.4% of available vaccines since the pandemic began, with children getting the tiniest fraction of that small amount.   

“As the world’s wealthiest nations move on from COVID-19, and declare the pandemic is in the past, millions of displaced people cannot access a vaccine and are still at high risk.  It is a sad indictment on those with the means to help,”  said Mr. Byworth. 

The child-focused NGO is raising the alarm that as needs are increasing, funding is being cut and is concerned that high visibility of the conflict in Ukraine threatens to deviate the much-needed humanitarian aid from other contexts where forcibly displaced people are struggling to survive.  Donors are re-directing existing aid budgets towards Ukraine, cutting funding, cancelling grants, and increasing military spending. In March 2022, Denmark announced that it was re-directing two billion kroner (US$280 million) of humanitarian aid aimed at some of the most pressing displacement crises, including Mali, Syria, and Bangladesh, for refugees from Ukraine.[ii] The United Kingdom has so far redirected GBP£220 million (US$276 million) of aid money to meet immediate humanitarian needs in Ukraine.

“As the world rightly reaches out to support refugees fleeing Ukraine, we urge those who have the political power to prioritise the lives of all refugees and internally displaced people globally, whose lives are continuing to get worse each year.  

“We fear that funds allocated to support refugees around the globe are now being diverted to those fleeing Ukraine; taking much needed food and protection supports from children who are struggling to survive in refugee camps. All refugees need and deserve support, regardless of which country they fled. We urge donors to increase funds, rather than reallocate what has already been pledged, so that all refugees receive the support they need,”  said Byworth.—World Vision




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