Alone, afraid and vulnerable to exploitation

The number of children fleeing conflict on their own is unprecedented, and continues to grow every year.

Every hour, around 20 children – the same number as an average Australian primary school class – run for their lives without their parents to protect them.

Many of these children have lost their parents to conflict, or become separated from them while fleeing. Embarking on perilous journeys with no-one to protect them, they face many dangers, falling prey to wild animals, malnutrition and disease, violence, abuse and exploitation.

With your support, UNHCR protection officers ensure that children on their own have:

  • Secure and child-friendly shelter
  • Nutritious food
  • Medical care and counselling
  • Access to education

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Give a gift to protect refugee children and help reclaim lost childhoods. Donate today→

An orphan and head of household at 16

The day 16-year-old Rabiaa fled her township in Myanmar, her life changed. ©UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

On the day their Rohingya township in Myanmar was razed, 16-year-old Rabiaa lost both her parents and found her two young nieces in distress by the side of the road. Together, the children made their way to a UNHCR transit centre in Bangladesh where they were given hot meals, clean water and new clothes.

"It was a tough journey. My nieces were crying the whole time."

A week later, the girls were moved to Kutupalong camp, where they now live beside their former neighbour. “They are like my little children now,” Rabiaa says of her nieces. “I will care for them for the rest of my life. I want to see them well-educated.” 

In Bangladesh, 5,677 Rohingya households are headed by children - in most cases because both parents were killed in Myanmar. You can give them the chance to reclaim their lost childhoods and look to the future with hope today. Donate now→

The day that changed everything for me

Last year, 12-year-old Anna woke in the middle of the night to the deafening rattle of machine guns. ©UNHCR/Oli Cohen 

Last year, 12-year-old Anna woke in the middle of the night to the deafening rattle of machine guns. Her town in South Sudan was under attack.

She remembers the chaos in the street outside, the darkness and thick smoke. She remembers the last glimpse she caught of her mother in the crowd before she ran for her life.

"When I reached the bushes I realised my parents weren’t with me. I screamed their names in the smoke and the darkness, but couldn’t find them. I hid all night waiting for the sun to come up and then spent all day looking for them. Nobody came for me."

Numb with shock, she joined a straggle of people heading for the Ethiopian border. During Anna's harrowing trek through a warzone she saw countless dead bodies and was weak with fever and hunger. She was lucky to survive.

Anna is in Ethiopia now and in UNHCR’s care. Here she has access to child-safe shelter, food, clean water, medical care and the counsel of a child protection officer to help her cope with her grief and trauma. Best of all for Anna, she has been able to return to school and feel like a child again. 

Every day, vulnerable children like Anna are falling through the cracks. As their numbers grow to crisis levels, your help is urgently needed. Please send your donation today→

With a donation today you can be there for a frightened child fleeing from conflict on their own
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Your donations in action

"Every day I look into the eyes of a child that needs a reason to hope" - UNHCR's Mmone Moletsane

Protection Protection

Rebuilding lives through psychosocial support in child-friendly spaces 

Safe Places Safe Places

Koang enjoying the safe play space in Kule Refugee Camp in Ethiopia's Gambella region

Safe Places Safe Places

Semira is reunited with two of her children in Switzerland

Reuniting Families Reuniting Families

Get the facts about our impact

Protection Protection Protection
Reuniting Families Reuniting Families Reuniting Families
Safe Places Safe Places Safe Places
Counselling Counselling Counselling

Providing Protection

Children and families fleeing violence, war, disaster or persecution can be very vulnerable. UNHCR supplies displaced people with essential items, food and shelter to protect them from having to make dangerous decisions to survive. On a larger scale, UNHCR negotiates safe passage, asylum spaces and humanitarian access, upholding the rights of refugees and minimising the threat of violence, including sexual assault.

Reuniting Families

Families often become separated during forced displacement and flight. UNHCR makes use of registration data to locate separated family members and reunite them where possible. UNHCR also works with its partners to share information between refugee sites and provide safe accommodation and psychosocial support for unaccompanied and separated children.

Providing Safe Places

UNHCR operates safe spaces for the most vulnerable refugees for child and family support, providing child services, play areas and counselling. Children travelling alone are given special support and safe accommodation while UNHCR staff search for their relatives or carers. For displaced girls, safe spaces in refugee camps are essential for preventing abuse and exploitation. LGBTI refugees are also offered safe spaces to protect them from harm and discrimination.

Providing Counselling

Displacement due to horrific violence, armed conflict, persecution, or disaster puts significant psychological and social stress on children, individuals, families and communities. UNHCR provides counselling to refugee populations to address trauma arising from displacement. These services are particularly vital for survivors of torture and of sexual and gender-based violence.

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