Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country. They often have had to flee with little more than the clothes on their back, leaving behind homes, possessions, jobs and loved ones. By the end of 2017, there were 25.4 million refugee men, women and children registered across the world.
Imagine being forced to flee your country in order to escape to safety. If you were lucky you had time to pack a bag. If not, you simply dropped everything and ran. But, for those 25.4 million people around the world, it is a terrifying reality.
As if the condition isn’t hard enough for adults… What about how it is on the children? Reported by UNICEF, here are the challenges children and young people face when they are forced to flee their homes.
1. Mental Health: “I don’t feel so good”
While a lot of emphases is placed on physical health and rehabilitation, the mental state of children is often overlooked. It is estimated that 50 per cent of refugee children fleeing Syria have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the horrors they have witnessed or experienced. The dire shortage in mental health services, both in transit and in the destination country, need to be addressed urgently in order to give children back what they most desperately deserve: a childhood free from worry.
2. Lack of Education: “Why can't I go to school?”
Education, no matter a child’s background, is the key to a successful future. It is estimated that only 50 per cent of refugee children have primary education as opposed to a global average of 90 per cent. The impact of education affects the number of child marriage, whereas the occurrence would fall by two thirds and 59 per cent of teen pregnancies would be prevented. If all young people are educated, together they can hopefully rebuild the country they left behind.
3. Integration: “Where do I belong?”
Imagine you are nine years old, coming to a completely new country, possibly one where you don’t know anyone, or how to speak the language. Well, this is the scary reality for millions of refugee children who find themselves in a new country – isolated and alone. Schools and communities should incorporate programmes that foster harmony between children from different backgrounds and help them learn about each other’s cultures. These will prevent social exclusion and help make the transition to a new life easier.
4. Internal Displacement: “When can I go home?”
Internal displacement produces a different set of challenges as people are forced to flee to a different region, due to factors such as environmental change. The issues faced by internally displaced children differ from those who become refugees. Countries can have such massive cultural and linguistic differences that adapting to the new situation becomes even harder. If they are unable to enrol in a new school they may have a lesser sense of belonging in their own country.
5. Unaccompanied Children: “Where is my family?”
Conflict is a terrible ordeal for any child to face: doing so alone makes the situation even worse. Put yourself in a child’s shoes – can you imagine travelling thousands of miles, scared and unfamiliar with your surroundings, without the protection of your parents? Without support, they risk being trafficked and abused as they continue to fend for themselves. The problems children face are only going to be solved when those of us with a voice speak out for those without and do whatever we can to help.