Australia for UNHCR has launched an appeal to provide protection to the record number of children forced to flee conflict without their parents or family. More than half of all refugees are children, and those separated from their families are especially vulnerable.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is the leading global agency protecting and aiding persons fleeing conflict. It recently confirmed that 112,305 unaccompanied children had applied for asylum across 83 countries in just 12 months. This was a threefold increase over the previous year and the highest number since records began.

"Despite showing incredible resilience, unaccompanied children face heightened risks."

Pierre, 14, fled Burundi without his family. He now shares a tent with over twenty other unaccompanied children in Mahama Refugee Camp, Rwanda © UNHCR/ Kate Holt

Without protection, children fleeing conflict are vulnerable to human trafficking, abuse and exploitation. UNHCR places specialist child protection staff in and around conflict zones to identify unaccompanied children on arrival at refugee settlements to ensure they receive the support and services they need.

Australia for UNHCR National Director, Naomi Steer, said: “Children fleeing conflict have often been separated from their families in horrific ways. Some children lose their parents in the terror and confusion of a bombing raid. Others are separated from their families when people smugglers abandon sinking ships full of refugees.

“Child refugees who are separated from their families have already been through so much adversity and yet they are vulnerable to so much more. Despite showing incredible resilience, unaccompanied children face heightened risks. That is why the services that UNHCR provides to protect them are so vital.”

As well as helping provide protection staff, donations will also support UNHCR family-tracing services in refugee camps, helping reunite separated children with their families.

This is accomplished by using UNHCR registration data from settlements and camps across a crisis zone to try and trace children’s parents, carers and surviving siblings.

For longer term displaced children, UNHCR is also helping deliver critical services such as child counselling, child-friendly accommodation, safe play spaces and access to education.

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