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Child Health


The most dangerous refugee journey is from birth to 5 years old. Your donation will ensure that the smallest victims of conflict receive the special care and protection they need.

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Every day, around 30,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, more than a third of them in their first month of life.

For refugee children, those first five years are the most dangerous. Fleeing from conflict and living in precarious conditions, they are the first and most frequent victims of violence, malnutrition and diseases.

We are in a race against time, with refugee emergencies in Africa and the Middle East putting thousands of young children at immediate risk.

  • From birth to 18 months: There is a high risk of maternal and neonatal deaths, infections, and malnourishment in weaning infants. If not treated, even mild malnutrition can cause life-long damage at this critical stage of early childhood, permanently impairing a child's growth and mental development.
  • From 18 months to three years: Malaria and infectious diseases that cause fever and diarrhoea are most dangerous in children under three. Without treatment, a toddler infected with malaria is likely to die within a few days of developing their first fever.
  • From three to five years: Children are at risk of psychological trauma as a result of escaping from violence, and a lack of opportunities for early childhood learning and play. Even very young children can become depressed, anxious and withdrawn, some to the point where they cannot sleep and refuse to eat or speak.

GALLERY: An infant's journey to safety

Note: Should the funds raised exceed the amount required to meet the immediate and longer term needs of the people in the affected areas, Australia for UNHCR will direct donations to our Emergency Response Program to enable us to rapidly address future emergencies as they occur.

How we help

UNHCR cares for refugee children at every stage of their journey. We assess their health on arrival and identify those in need of special care and counselling. We work to ensure refugee children have the essentials of a healthy childhood: nourishing breast milk, nutritious food, immunisation, clean water, sanitation, warmth and security of care.

  • Antenatal care: UNHCR provides antenatal care, clean birth kits and supplementary nutrition for pregnant and nursing mothers. We assess children for malnutrition, support emergency feeding programs and provide fortified infant milks and high protein pastes for young children.
  • Disease prevention: Where malaria is endemic, UNHCR provides mosquito nets for refugee children on registration and ensures their vaccination against infectious diseases like measles and polio. We supply water containers, clean drinking water and sanitation services to prevent diarrhoeal diseases.
  • Psychosocial support: UNHCR assesses children for trauma on arrival and refers them for counselling and ongoing psychosocial support if required. We help provide child-safe spaces and playgrounds in refugee camps and reception centres and work to give all refugee children access to education.