Inequity, violence and rights abuses are driving forces behind the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe

20 November 2015 – Nearly 14 million children and adolescents in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan face war, conflict and injustices every day, fuelling the current refugee and migrant crisis in Europe.

A new report, 'For every child, a fair chance: The promise of equity', released by Unicef today - Universal Children's Day - shows that the world remains a deeply unfair place for the poorest and most disadvantaged children despite major advances since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Today in Europe, refugee and migrant children are among the most disadvantaged of all children.

"Some have known only terror and tragedy, injustice and inequity all their lives, so it is little wonder that over 200,000 children have risked their lives this year to seek refuge in Europe," said Marie-Pierre Poirier, Unicef Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe. "They are victims of circumstances beyond their control; they should not now be victimised again and face new hurdles - shut borders, shut schools, shut homes. It is only right that they are given a fair chance at a new life."

For children fleeing war and conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Unicef says the only way to give every one of these children on the move a fair chance in life is an urgent political resolution to the conflicts in their countries of origin and humanitarian support in the region.

For children fleeing disparities and inequities in the Balkans or parts of Africa and South Asia, the key is to break the vicious inter-generational cycle of poverty and disadvantage by targeting resources where it matters most - investing in the worst-off in society. 

The report 'For every child, a fair chance: The promise of equity' presents a statistical summary of how the world's most marginalized children have fared against basic human development indicators. The report makes the case for closing persistent gaps in equity, arguing that investing in children, particularly the most vulnerable, is right in principle and right in practice, and that such investment brings multiple benefits not only to children but also to their families, communities and economies.

On 20 November, Unicef is launching its 'Fight Unfair' campaign together with an impressive team of Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors who will raise their voices or activate their social media networks to help spur action for the world's most vulnerable children.

"It is shocking to think that one in nine children lives in a country affected by armed conflict, witnessing horrific violence and having their rights to survival, health and education destroyed," said British actor and Unicef Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom. "I travelled with Unicef to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia to see how the war is driving children and their families from their homes. The world is facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Every country that can should be supporting the children and the families who have been affected."

Note to editors - some of the key statistics in the report show:

  • Children from the poorest households are nearly twice as likely as those from the richest households to die before age 5, and five times more likely to be out of school.
  • Girls from the poorest families are four times more likely as those from the richest families to be married before 18.
  • More than 2.4 billion people still do not have safe toilets - 40 per cent of them in South Asia; and more than 660 million still lack access to safe water - nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Roughly half of the 159 million children suffering from stunting live in South Asia and one third in Africa.
  • Nearly half of all under-five deaths, and 43 per cent of children not in school, are in countries affected by conflicts and natural disasters.

Download a PDF of the report and multimedia materials from:


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