Stuck in the Box / Gefangen im Karton / Preso na Caixa / Preso en la Caja

More than half of the World’s 60 million displaced people are under the age of 18.

Once they have been displaced for six months, a refugee is likely to remain displaced for at least three years, with the average length of displacement estimated at 17 years – almost an entire childhood.

Support for displaced children is stuck in the ‘humanitarian’ box. Displaced girls and boys should be regarded, first and foremost, as children.

There is no child more vulnerable in the world today than a child internally displaced by armed conflict, forced to leave home and community behind.

Not only do they fear for their lives when they flee for safety, but often face discrimination as their families search for means of survival.

They are at high risk of recruitment as soldiers and are frequently sexually assaulted or otherwise abused by unscrupulous adults, sometimes even by the aid workers or peacekeepers sent to protect them.

They are exploited for personal or material gain: forced to become prostitutes trafficked as sex workers or forced labourers.

During flight from the dangers of conflict, families and children continue to be exposed to multiple physical dangers.

They are threatened by sudden attacks, shelling, snipers and landmines, and must often walk for days with only limited quantities of water and food.

Under such circumstances, children become acutely undernourished and prone to illness, and they are the first to die.

Girls in flight are even more vulnerable than usual to sexual abuse. Children forced to flee on their own to ensure their survival are at heightened risk.

They languish without education or adequate food or water in camps or become invisible people in huge cities desperate with hunger and a decent place to sleep.

Sometimes in the chaos of war and flight, displaced children become separated from their families and, unable to indicate where they come from, end up alone on the streets vulnerable to the worst forms of abuse.

Or placed in orphanages that are barren of resources and often, it seems, hope. These children are in desperate need of protection and assistance.

Children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance.

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