Violence, child labor, trafficking, disasters: The dangers faced by children on the move

To mark Universal Children’s Day, the NGO EDUCO reminds us that millions of children are forced to migrate to another country, or a different part of their country, accompanied by their parents and families, or even alone.

The Head of Protection at EDUCO, Laurence Cambianica, confirms that “it is difficult to have exact figures regarding this phenomenon. However, UNICEF estimates that there are around 50 million children on the move. In these contexts, they are doubly vulnerable: because they are children and because they are refugees or migrants.”

The reasons for moving are many, like for example to search for economic resources or new opportunities, but more than half of them, around 28 million, are fleeing from the violence of wars, natural disasters or the threat of an insecure and dangerous environment.

According to Cambianica, “Often, fleeing is their best option, to have a better future or just in terms of survival. However, they also face a number of dangers. These children are at risk of suffering physical, sexual or psychological violence, or of being victims of exploitation, trafficking or the worst forms of child labour. In situations like these, young girls and adolescent girls are especially vulnerable and may suffer gender-based violence.”

The head of Protection of the NGO adds that “it is important to remember that on many occasions these children cannot go to school. For example, only half of these refugees or internally displaced children go to primary school and only 25% attend the first phase of secondary education. That is why we also ask governments to take the necessary action to guarantee their right to education.”

In the most recent Mayon Volcano Eruption of 2018 alone, up to 90,000 learners were affected, 30-45% of whom are displaced. The rest are residents who are hosting evacuees in their schools or communities.

EDUCO insists that it is essential that these children on the move can travel safely; accompanied by their families or other people they trust. It, therefore, demands that States, through community child protection mechanisms, guarantee the security and rights of these children.
“EDUCO supports the government in strengthening implementation of laws and programs for children in times of emergencies,” adds Shiena Base, EDUCO Philippines Child Protection Specialist. “Children in Emergency Relief and Protection Act (RA 10821) must be enacted and cascaded down to the community level including the children. We must give more weight on the preventive rather than restorative measures.“
According to Shina Base, this can be done by strengthening child protection mechanisms in communities by establishing functional child protection and gender-based violence reporting and referral pathway even in times of emergencies.