Alfonso F. Reca, UNICEF Regional Communications Specialist for UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean, carries a young girl who has just arrived with her mother in Bajo Chiquito, Darién, Panamá, after migrating through the dangerous Darién Gap.


How UNICEF works to save and protect refugee children

The refugee crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine continues to unfold with extraordinary speed and scale.

At the same time, globally, tens of millions of other refugees and internally displaced children and families struggle, awaiting humanitarian aid or safe harbor.

The number of people worldwide forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution continues to grow. In May 2022, it topped 100 million for the first time, a surge propelled by Ukraine's war, which displaced nearly 8 million people in just three months, and new waves of violence in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to UNHCR, the UN's Refugee Agency. 

Other countries with large numbers of displaced and refugee children and families include South SudanSyria and Venezuela.

Every refugee — especially the youngest and most vulnerable — deserves respect, assistance and protection. Whether children on the move are migrants, refugees or internally displaced, they are all children first. Children who lose their homes or statehood shouldn't have to forfeit their childhoods. 

They urgently need help, and UNICEF won't stop helping them.

Join UNICEF USA: Take the pledge to welcome refugee and migrant children.

Delivering lifesaving supplies to help uprooted children stay safe and healthy

Whether in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, Africa or Southeast Asia or the Americas, UNICEF acts to defend the rights of all vulnerable children on the move and to protect their futures. 

UNICEF also creates safe spaces for uprooted children to learn and play and to receive mental health and psychosocial support, whether they are staying in camps or informal settlements or in host communities.

Here are some examples of how UNICEF is helping refugees from around the world.

Europe and Central Asia: UNICEF's response to the Ukrainian refugee emergency 

More than 6 million refugees have fled Ukraine. Roughly 9 out of 10 of them are children and women.

UNICEF is assisting children and families on the move at more than two dozen 'Blue Dot' centers jointly established along transit routes with UNHCR in close coordination with local authorities and other partners. These centers reach up to 1,000 people a day with education and psychosocial support, health care, safe water and hygiene supplies, protection and other services.

UNICEF is also training teachers in Moldova and other neighboring countries to support child refugees through inclusive education and violence prevention.

Syrian Refugee Crisis: reaching vulnerable children living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey

Until the recent escalation of war in Ukraine, the Syrian refugee crisis stemming from over a decade of conflict in the country was the largest displacement crisis in the world, with 5.7 million registered refugees — including over 2.7 million children — living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. 

Together with partners, UNICEF continues to Syrian refugee children and families living in camps, informal settlements and urban settings — as well as vulnerable children from host communities — with essential education, water and sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, health, nutrition and social protection services and adolescent and youth programs.

Southeast Asia: How UNICEF is supporting Rohingya refugees

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. Facing violence and persecution, 1.1 million Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar since 2017; 90 percent are now living in Bangladesh and Malaysia. The vast majority of Rohingya refugees are women and children, including newborn babies. Many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection.

In 2021, UNICEF provided critical lifesaving support to over 115,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the largest refugee settlement in the world. UNICEF's education programs with partners serve 300,000 children in Cox's Bazar.

The Americas: Protecting the rights of children on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border

UNICEF is leveraging decades of humanitarian expertise to help children fleeing gang violence, persecution, extreme poverty and the devastating effects of climate change in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. UNICEF’s work supporting and protecting the rights of children migrating to the U.S. includes supporting shelters and service providers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

A call to action for UNICEF USA supporters

The United States welcomes thousands of refugees each year, providing many with the opportunity to resettle in the country. Once settled in host communities, however, vulnerable refugee and migrant children and families are often subjected to discrimination, xenophobia and stigmatization.

Guided by UNICEF’s Agenda for Action for Uprooted Children, UNICEF USA is urging its supporters to combat xenophobia and welcome refugees and migrants. Every child needs to be safe and protected, regardless of where they are from or where they are going.

Join UNICEF USA: Take the pledge to welcome refugee and migrant children.

Support UNICEF's global efforts to meet urgent needs of displaced and refugee children and to protect their rights. Your contribution can make a difference.


Top photo: Alfonso F. Reca, Regional Communications Specialist for UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean, carries a child who has just arrived with her mother in Bajo Chiquito, Darién, Panamá, after journeying through the Darién Gap, a dangerous jungle that separates Panama from Colombia and an increasingly popular migration route. Most children crossing the Darién Gap are the children of Haitian migrants, some of whom moved to Chile and Brazil after the devastating earthquake in 2010, others who left after the earthquake that struck Haiti in August 2021. © UNICEF/UN0559477/Urdaneta