Conflict, instability and a hunger crisis have pushed nearly a million people, half of them children out of Somalia, the UN children agency, UNICEF has said.
In a report released in New York yesterday, UNICEF said the combined factors-conflict, instability and hunger have uprooted up to 4.5 million children in five countries out of their homes threatening the future of these countries.
The Fund said the recent surge in refugee movement notably from Syria to Europe has captured world attention but the underlying issues remain unresolved calling for a more concerted effort by global leaders to address the matter.
“Heartrending pictures have helped galvanize public attention around the fate of children caught in the European refugee crisis, but the issue goes far beyond the borders of Europe,” said Afshan Khan, Director of UNICEF Emergency Programmes.
UNICEF said since the beginning of the year, more than half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe. About one fifth of those who have reached Europe’s shores are children.
“The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with millions of families forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution in countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan or Syria,” said Khan.
Khan said children in countries in conflict are under daily attack and risk abduction, maiming, recruitment and death. “Their journey to safety is fraught with dangers. Whether they are fleeing by sea or by road, they are often at the mercy of smugglers and have to carry the physical and psychological burdens of war, displacement and hostility,” said Khan.
Some 760,000 people, nearly two thirds of them children, have fled South Sudan since the current conflict erupted in December 2013.
The Syrian crisis which is now running into the fifth year forced more than 4 million people into refugee camps, makeshift shelters, and overstretched host communities in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.
Syria has dominated talks in the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York but has also seen divergence of views with Russia proposing the support of President Assad to counter the terror group ISIL insurgency while the US sees the ouster of Assad as the way to stability in the war torn country.