Unaccompanied Children

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The refugee crisis is a child’s emergency

In the conflict and upheaval that forces them to flee their homes, thousands of children lose their parents to violence or become separated from them and endure long journeys on their own. Refugee children are at great risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect, including human trafficking and forced recruitment into armed groups. Girls, in particular, are at a heightened risk of child marriage and sexual exploitation.

Due to the mass displacement of unaccompanied and separated children, child protection efforts are becoming extremely strained and resources increasingly scarce. Ethiopia is home to the world’s largest population of unaccompanied and separated refugee children.

Ethiopia: With historic registration drive, refugees mark life’s most vital events

thousand children fleeing alone were reported in 2017


percent of the world’s refugee population are children

thousand unaccompanied minors fled to the United States in 2018 in search of safety


of children seeking asylum in Italy are separated from their families

How You Can Help

Child protection services are severely underfunded. Due to financial constraints, the building capacity of UNHCR staff is severely compromised. Under-resourced refugee camps struggle to provide vulnerable children with the necessary support and assistance they need. 

UNHCR funding is provided almost entirely by donations from individuals, corporations and governments. These funds are used to provide basic nutrition, as well as, education, shelter and health to refugee children.

All children deserve to be safe where they live, learn and play.

There is a growing need for humanitarian assistance in the region but shortfalls in the funding continue.” – Naser Mohmand, UNHCR Official

All children deserve to be safe where they live, learn and play

Give a generous gift today to help protect and support vulnerable refugee children


Children In Crisis

Hover over the highlighted countries learn more about unaccompanied refugee children.

The world’s lost children

In 2017, an estimated 173,800 unaccompanied and separated child refugees and asylum-seekers were reported worldwide, of whom 138,700 were assisted by 63 UNHCR operations.

The world’s wars and disasters are causing unimaginable suffering to the most vulnerable amongst us: children. In the conflict and upheaval that forces families to leave their homes, thousands of children lose their parents to violence or become separated from them on their journey to safety. With no one to care for them, they risk slipping through the cracks.

Refugee children, particularly girls, are at a greater risk of gender-based violence. Some of these issues include: a large disparity in school enrolment between girls and boys, forced marriage, high instances of domestic violence, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and limited energy supply necessitating girls to travel long distances outside of the camps to collect firewood.

Helping Unaccompanied and Separated Children

To ensure their rights and protection, UNHCR is working with national authorities, international and local organisations, and other partners to assist, protect and find solutions for unaccompanied and separated children.

In 2017, UNHCR worked to:

  • Find and identify unaccompanied and separated children and attempt to reunite them with their families
  • Provide the necessities of life for children, including: shelter, food, clean water, education and medical care, as well as protection from child marriage, trafficking and other forms of abuse and exploitation
  • Rebuild children’s lives through psychosocial support in child-friendly spaces
  • Strengthen women and girls’ empowerment programmes; address survival sex as a coping mechanism in a situation of displacement; provide safe access to domestic energy and natural resources


An example of a child intake form in a UNHCR camp

The Ethiopian Emergency

Ethiopia hosts more than 900,000 refugees, the second largest population in Africa. More than 99% of these refugees originate from neighbouring countries, including: South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. 

An overwhelming number of children are fleeing the brutal violence in South Sudan and are in desperate need of protection. More than 43,300 unaccompanied minors are currently living in Ethiopia, the largest reported number of unaccompanied and separated children in one country.

Most of these children are hosted in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. Children represent 66 percent of the refugee population in Gambella, with 28 percent being unaccompanied and separated children.

The situation in Gambella is a children’s emergency. The large percentage of unaccompanied and separated children raise significant protection challenges, and existing school and child-friendly spaces lack the resources to accommodate young refugees’ educational and psychosocial needs.

As of today, UNHCR has only received 50 percent of the $327.9 million needed to respond to the refugee crisis in Ethiopia. Your donation will secure the needs of thousands of unaccompanied and separated refugee children.

million Ethiopians have been internally displaced

million people of concern

thousand displaced in informal settlements  

thousand refugees are unaccompanied children

Help us save lives as the Ethiopian refugee crisis worsens

Thousands of unaccompanied minors and separated refugee children seek refuge in Ethiopia. With your support, we can provide them with emergency support and protection.


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