A refugee camp in Somalia. Children make up around 40 per cent of the world’s displaced people.
Photo: © sntes/Shutterstock.com

Highest number of displaced children ever

The organisation Save the Children analysed available figures from the ten largest displacement crises of 2023 to see how many children were newly displaced across the year. The results are alarming.

More than ten million children were forced to flee their homes last year in the world’s 10 largest crises, according to new Save the Children analysis published in February 2024. This has likely pushed the number of children displaced globally to more than 50 million, the highest level ever, with numbers more than doubling since 2010. 

The new analysis shows that during the year, an additional 10.5 million children – or an average of about 29,000 a day – were estimated to be newly displaced inside their own country or had fled to another country, with children in Sudan and Somalia the most affected. 

Number of people displaced globally at new record level

While verified 2023 statistics will not available until later in 2024, Save the Children analysed the most recent displacement data from organisations including the UN’s International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for the ten crises to show the initial figures of child displacement. The number of people displaced globally has risen to a new record level, according to the United Nations, whose latest estimate shows that 114 million people were displaced as of October 2023.  

Children make up around 40 per cent of the world’s displaced people according to the UN, with millions forced to flee their homes every year. This leaves many unable to go to school, without enough to eat, with little access to healthcare, and at risk of abuse and violence as well as in need of psychosocial support after the events they have witnessed. Financial difficulties can force children into dangerous activities, including crime, child labour, sexual exploitation or joining armed groups. 

The number of children displaced has risen significantly in recent years and at a faster rate than the number of adults displaced, more than doubling from about 20.6 million in 2010. But Save the Children said children remain largely invisible in displacement data, which makes it hard to understand their needs, aspirations and potential, and to identify appropriate policy and programme responses. 

Children in Sudan and Somalia the most affected

After major fighting had broken out last April, Sudan saw the biggest movement of children in 2023 with around 4.1 million children forced to flee their homes. Most of these – 3.3 million – have been displaced within Sudan, while a further 850,000 children have fled to nearby countries including South Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic and Egypt. 

Somalia saw the second-largest number of children on the move in 2023, mostly due to floods, drought, conflict and insecurity. Up to 1.6 million additional children may have been displaced internally or externally in 2023, bringing the total number of children displaced in Somalia to 2.4 million. 

The occupied Palestinian territory meanwhile was also among the top five locations where the situation deteriorated the most in 2023. Save the Children’s analysis found that around 890,000 children had left their homes in Gaza as of the 21st December 2023, following the launch of Israeli military operations in response to attacks on Israel on the 7th October.  As of the end of 2023, the proportion of the population displaced within Gaza in just ten weeks was one of the highest recorded globally. 

(Save the children/ile)

Read more on the Save the children website

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