A girl in Mumbai, India. Hundreds of migrant workers and their families had to return home when they lost their jobs due to the pandemic. May 27, 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/ A. Vaishnav
A girl in Mumbai, India. Hundreds of migrant workers and their families had to return home when they lost their jobs due to the pandemic. May 27, 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/ A. Vaishnav

Young refugees are facing greater risks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, UN Refugee Aid Germany says. Some are even going hungry as they miss out on school meals.

On International Youth Day, the German donation partner of the UN refugee agency UNHCR says the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the risks facing young refugees and displaced people across the world.

 "More than 80 percent of the world's refugees and almost all those displaced in their own country live in poorer countries," said Peter Ruhenstroth-Bauer, Managing Director of UN Refugee Aid Germany.

"These countries are now facing major challenges that they cannot overcome on their own. Young refugees need special support, especially in this important phase, which is characterized by the search for identity and life perspectives."

The consequences of COVID-19 for young refugees are being felt on many levels, the organization says. Families are breaking apart and slipping into even deeper poverty due to job losses. This results in stress, anxiety and outbreaks of violence.

The closure of schools leads not only to educational deficits, but also to the loss of the social and psychological support they receive in educational institutions. This also leads to hunger, because the regular food that the girls and boys receive daily in the schools is missing.

Lost opportunity

Girls face especially serious risks. During the COVID emergency, the incidence of gender-based violence and forced marriage has increased, the UNHCR says. Many girls who have been kept out of school because of closures will never return.

"The idea of not sending girls to school, especially in the area where I live, has really become a part of culture," 16-year-old Antsa in Madagascar said in a report by the UN children's agency, UNICEF.

UN support for schools

The UNHCR is trying to help by providing young refugees with access to education, for example by providing Internet-based school materials and "virtual classrooms."

In Mali, thousands of young refugees and migrants were given solar-powered radios that provide information about educational opportunities, school openings and coronavirus prevention measures. 

Twelve schools also received water pumps and 135 schools received sanitary and hygiene equipment, UN Refugee Aid Germany said.


 

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