Why We Recognize World Refugee Day

Around the world, children and families are fleeing their homelands to escape oppression, violence and ongoing conflicts. These people seek safety and shelter in countries other than their own and become refugees. There are currently more than 22 million refugees around the globe – and those numbers grow by the day. More than half of all refugees are children, whose childhoods are at risk of ending too soon.

World Refugee Day brings attention to the ongoing plight of refugees and what can be done to help them. It was first established by the UN General Assembly in 2001. World Refugee Day offers us a chance to raise awareness in our own communities about the conditions endured by millions of refugees every day. Together, we have an opportunity to show how everyone can help make a lasting impact on the lives of refugees in need.

A Childhood Lost
Today, on World Refugee Day, it is more important than ever to remember that all children deserve safety, an education and a chance at a future.

Desperate circumstances force refugee children into hazardous work. Child labor has been identified as a major barrier to education in many countries currently experiencing conflict or recently emerging from conflict.1 It is also reportedly on the rise for both Syrian refugee children and host communities.2 In Jordan, for example, a recent survey of the resident child population (which included migrants and refugee households) found child labor rates have roughly doubled compared to pre-crisis figures. 3

More than half of the world’s refugee children are not in school—forced from their homes, education and everything they once knew, their childhoods cut short. Education is a necessity and provides hope and opportunities for the future, as well as a sense of safety, stability and normalcy for children overcoming traumatic events.

Child marriage is reportedly on the rise for girls in Syria and among Syrian refugee populations.4 Marriage of children under 18 years old is not a new phenomenon in Syria. However, with the protracted nature of the crisis, child marriage has evolved from a cultural practice to a coping mechanism.5

An Uncertain Future

Suffering violence, witnessing violence or fearing violence can cause lifelong disabilities and deep emotional trauma. Separation from family members and economic hardship can expose girls and boys to exploitation in the forms of child labor, child marriage, sexual violence and recruitment into use by armed groups.6

But the less visible dangers for children in conflict are caused by lack of food and the collapse of essential services such as health care, sanitation and education.7

Malnutrition takes a toll on the immune system and it is particularly severe for growing children. Refugee children are more vulnerable to succumb to such preventable and treatable conditions such as pneumonia and diarrhea, which account for nearly one in five deaths in children under the age of five.

Inadequate nutrition during childhood can lead to impaired growth, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of mortality. A lack of to basic healthcare causes needless death and suffering for so many young children who need a healthy head start in life.

An Opportunity to Help
When refugees are displaced from their homes, it’s often the children who suffer the most.

Save the Children is working around the clock to ensure refugee children and their families are supported in their basic human needs.

We work nonstop supporting refugee girls and boys, helping them survive, and thrive. Whether in camps, on the move or in host communities, our caring staff help refugee children from Syria, South Sudan, Burundi and other countries marred by violence and persecution.


1. Justino, Patricia. “Barriers to Education in Conflict-Affected Countries and Policy Opportunities.”

2. UNICEF. Preparing for the Future of Children and Youth in Syria and the Region through Education: London One Year On: Brussels Conference Education Report. (April 2017) p.5.

3. University of Jordan. National Child Labour Survey 2016 of Jordan. (Amman: 2016)

4. UNICEF. Preparing for the Future of Children and Youth in Syria and the Region through Education: London One Year On, Brussels Conference Education Report, April 2017, p. 5.”

5. Whole of Syria Protection Sector. 2018 Protection Needs Overview V2. (2017)

6. 2018 End of Childhood Index (Amman: 2016)

7. 2018 End of Childhood Index (Amman: 2016)

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