Internally displaced at risk

Providing protection and relief for internally displaced communities. Forced displacement uproots children and youths at a time when their lives most need stability. Around the world today, there are an estimated 27.1 million internally displaced persons as a result of armed conflict. At least half of these internally displaced persons that is, at least 13.5 million, are children.

During flight from the dangers of conflict, families and children continue to be exposed to multiple physical dangers. They are threatened by sudden attacks, shelling, snipers and landmines, and must often walk for days with only limited quantities of water and food. Under such circumstances, children become acutely undernourished and prone to illness, and they are the first to die. Girls in flight are even more vulnerable than usual to sexual abuse. Children forced to flee on their own to ensure their survival are also at heightened risk. Many abandon home to avoid forced recruitment, only to find that being in flight still places them at risk of recruitment, especially if they have no documentation and travel without their families.

Moreover, many, if not most, internally displaced children lack access to education. Without access to education, they are deprived not only of the opportunity to learn but of an important protection tool and source of psychosocial support. A lack of access to education also undermines their development and future potential.

Children in armed conflict who are internally displaced, or are at risk of becoming displaced, have rights just like all other children. These rights are expressly guaranteed and firmly entrenched in an extensive body of international law, in particular international human rights law and international humanitarian law as well as in the General Assembly’s resolution 64/162. These rights include the principle of non-discrimination, the right to documentation, protection from violence and abuse, the rights to essential services, and the requirements that when dealing with internally displaced children the best interest of the child must prevail.

Internally displaced children are a priority area for advocacy and action of the Office. In 2010, the Office issued a Working Paper called “The Rights and Guarantees of Internally Displaced Children in Armed Conflict” that draws attention to the particular risks faced by these children and offers guidance to governments and other