People on the move: causes, consequences and the way forward

Op-Ed by Jumana Abu Hannoud, Managing Director, SOS Children’s Villages International, Gulf Area Office

DIHAD conference, the Middle East’s largest gathering for humanitarian aid and development took place in Dubai, March 12-14, addressing a problem for that holds relevance and concern for our region: people on the move.

As an international NGO working with the most vulnerable children and families worldwide, SOS Children’s Villages has witnessed the consequences of people on the move. With recent years marked by the increase of armed conflicts in our region, many people have found themselves fleeing their country for the hope of refuge, and children in particular have been left without parental care, facing all kinds of dangers and threats.
According to UNHCR, there is approximately 22.5 million people around the world who are refugees, with 10 million of these who are denied a nationality –taking away a person’s basic rights, including healthcare, education, employment or social support.

There is however, no definitive global figure for the number of children who are temporarily or permanently living without parental care - and in many countries, available national data does not include information on migrants and refugees or on children moving undocumented across borders. Millions of children easily slip off records - whether they have become displaced, stateless, left behind by parents, have gone missing or lost their lives during dangerous journeys.

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In these situations, children are at risk of sexual, physical and psychological abuse - and forced in labour. Children have dropped out of school or have no access to education and, if this goes on long enough, they may not return to their studies. It is essential to identify who lacks adequate protection, in what circumstances they live and what type of support is most suitable for them, in order to ensure they can realise their right to quality care and protection. Whenever this is denied, the child’s personal security and development are at stake, as well as the sustainable development of their community.

As an NGO who cares for children, we contributed with the global community to provide better living conditions to these children, and so we started our first emergency programmes in Syria in 2012. SOS Children’s Villages has today established emergency programmes in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, reaching out to children and youth.

Being aligned with the 17th Sustainable Development Goal which consists of building different partnerships to achieve greater impact, our organization collaborates closely with states, other NGOs, and institutions to identify the needs and fill in the gaps in terms of providing shelter, education, and psychological support to children through our different emergency response programmes in the region and globally. It is ultimately our global responsibility to relieve the suffering of an entire generation of children who are paying the price of wars in different parts of the world.