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30 September 2015 – Conflicts and instability in five countries alone have uprooted at least 4.5 million children, Unicef said on the eve of a United Nations high-level meeting on the global migrant and refugee crisis. 

“Heartrending pictures have helped galvanize public attention around the fate of children caught in the European refugee crisis, but the issue goes far beyond the borders of Europe,” said Afshan Khan, Director of Unicef Emergency Programmes.

“The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with millions of families forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution in countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan or Syria.”

Since the beginning of the year, more than half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe. About one fifth of those who have reached Europe’s shores are children.  

But while the situation in Europe has grabbed the world’s attention, millions more refugees continue to be on the move: 

• In Syria, a brutal conflict now well into its fifth year has forced more than 4 million people into refugee camps, makeshift shelters, and overstretched host communities in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. 

• In Afghanistan, the second major source of refugees worldwide, more than 2.6 million have fled the country.

• In Somalia, conflict, instability and a hunger crisis have pushed nearly 1 million Somalis – half of them children – out of their country.• Nearly 666,000 people have fled the conflict in Sudan.

• Some 760,000 people, nearly two thirds of them children, have fled South Sudan since the current conflict erupted in December 2013. 

Children in countries in conflict are under daily attack. They risk abduction, maiming, recruitment and death. Their journey to safety is fraught with dangers. Whether they are fleeing by sea or by road, they are often at the mercy of smugglers and have to carry the physical and psychological burdens of war, displacement and hostility.    

The millions of children impacted by migration and forced displacement today require comprehensive, collaborative and sustainable responses.

Unicef remains committed to providing vital support along children’s journeys in search of more secure futures, and in their countries of origin:

• In Syria, for example, Unicef is helping provide water and sanitation services, keep children in school and conduct vaccination campaigns. 

• Along the route to Europe, Unicef has established children-friendly spaces and continues to advocate with host countries to prioritize children’s best interests.

• In developing countries not affected by conflict, Unicef supports programmes to tackle underlining causes of poverty and lack of opportunities. 


Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit