In 2019, about 19 million children were living displaced in their own country, many for years, due to conflicts and violence -- the highest number ever recorded. That's according to a new report "Lost at home" released by UNICEF on May 5.
The report looks at the risks and challenges internally displaced children face, and the urgent actions needed to protect them.
In a statement, UNICEF said as COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, these children are among the most vulnerable to its direct and indirect impacts.
According to the report, in 2019 there were 12 million new displacements of children: 3.8 million caused by conflict and violence and 8.2 million by disasters linked mostly to weather-related events like flooding and storms.
With coronavirus, these children particularly vulnerable
"Millions of displaced children around the world are already going without proper care and protection," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
"When new crises emerge, like the COVID-19 pandemic, these children are especially vulnerable. It is essential that governments and humanitarian partners work together to keep them safe, healthy, learning and protected."
The report said internally displaced children lack access to basic services and are at risk of exposure to violence, exploitation, abuse and trafficking. They are also at risk of child labour, child marriage and family separation which all pose direct threats to their health and safety.
UNICEF calls for strategic investments and united effort
The COVID-19 pandemic is making a critical situation for displaced children and families even worse. They often live in overcrowded camps or informal settlements, where access to basic hygiene and health services is limited, and where physical distancing is not possible. These conditions are highly conducive to the spread of diseases like COVID-19.
Through the report, UNICEF is calling for strategic investments and a united effort from governments, civil society, private sector, humanitarian actors and children themselves to address the child-specific drivers of displacement, especially all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse.
UNICEF is also calling on governments convening under the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, established by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, to take concrete action and investment that will help provide protection and equitable access to services for all internally displaced children and their families.
Critical to delivering on this agenda is better, timely and accessible data and evidence, disaggregated by age and gender, to improve collective understanding of how internal displacement affects children and their families.
The report said internally displaced children and youth themselves must have a seat at the table, be taken seriously and offered the opportunity to be part of the solution.