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Support for hungry refugee and displaced children dries up, World Vision reports

07 July 2023

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Women and children wait under the shade of an umbrella at a food-distribution site in the town of Adi Mehameday, in the western Tigray region, in May last year

Women and children wait under the shade of an umbrella at a food-distribution site in the town of Adi Mehameday, in the western Tigray region, in May ...

FOR the third consecutive year, the level of hunger among refugee and displaced children, and the violence that they face, is increasing, World Vision reports.

The charity carried out its third annual survey of the conditions faced by refugee families displaced by conflict and climate change in 18 countries, in March. Its report, Invisible and Forgotten, published late last month, says that, even as hunger increases, funding to support them is tailing off, and children are being taken out of school to earn money for their families.

About 103 million people, of whom almost half were children, had bee forcibly displaced from their homes by the end of 2022.

Eighty-five per cent of displaced families said that they were unable to feed themselves properly. One quarter said that they have had to take their children out of school.

World Vision’s study found that, in Afghanistan and Niger, families are also pushing young girls into marriage because of an acute lack of money. Others, turning to gangs or armed forces for food and protection, were being exposed to harm and trauma.

“Faced with hunger and malnutrition, missing out on education might seem less significant; but depriving a child of learning opportunities has devastating long-term consequences on their security, mental health, and psycho-social development. Research indicates that, for every year of school a child misses, their future income-earning potential reduces — a phenomenon which disproportionately affects girls and women. A weakened emerging workforce perpetuates a vicious circle of poverty for generations,” the report says.

The senior director of disaster management at World Vision, Amanda Rives, said: “The needs of children in places like Syria, Niger, the DRC, and Afghanistan are now greater than they have been in years, but there is not enough funding in place to respond.

“Today, millions of children are struggling to exist in refugee camps. Too many are being forced to marry or work in order to survive. They are hungry. They don’t get to go to school. They don’t get to have a childhood. And the world is forgetting about them.”

In Uganda, the survey shows that only three per cent of families could feed children three meals a day — down from 35 per cent the previous year. Since last year, refugees in the Bidibidi refugee camp have been receiving just 37 per cent of their recommended daily food rations, owing to a lack of funding.

Parents also reported how the camps in which they were living were not safe for children; increasing numbers felt that their children were at risk of violence.

Pope Francis appealed this week for the international community to commit itself to eradicating hunger. Addressing the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, he said that countries needed to set aside “petty logic and biased visions”.

“Mass displacement, along with other effects of global political, economic and military tensions undermine efforts to ensure that people’s living conditions are improved on the basis of their inherent dignity,” he said.

The Roman Catholic aid agency Caritas also issued an urgent appeal for humanitarian aid to be restarted in the conflict-ridden Tigray region of Ethiopia. It was halted at the end of March after it was discovered that aid was being diverted away from those in need. Caritas said that people were starving to death, and that innocent people were suffering.

“The suspension of food distributions is threatening lives even further, especially for the people who are elderly or in poor health, children, and IDPs.”

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