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Real Experiences of Unaccompanied Refugee Children


Real Experiences of Unaccompanied Refugee Children

There is no time to think when gunfire erupts. Especially when you are a 12-year-old child.
8 January 2019 Also available in:

7 Jan 2019


It was the middle of the night when the gunmen came. As the sound of machines guns ripped through the air, ever closer to her village in the Jonglei State of South Sudan, what Anna (nor her real name) initially thought was just a bad dream quickly turned into an absolute nightmare.

She did the only thing a child her age could do: run away.

Scared for her life as screams of pain and despair filled the quiet African night, she did the only thing a child her age could do: run away. But in a night where chaos reigned and neighbours died, she quickly lost her parents in her desperate flight for safety.

Afraid, starving and alone, she saw once familiar surroundings transformed into a warzone overnight as she roamed the countryside in a frantic search for shelter, food and safety. Rattled by the proximity of wild animals, horrified by putrescent piles of decomposing bodies and terrified by the sound of constant fighting, she rapidly grew ill and weak.

Unable to fully comprehend what happened to her old life

Still unable to fully comprehend what happened to her old life, Anna’s haggard eyes now stare at an uncertain future, made even darker by the possibility that her mother and father may well have died on the night war came to her village.

In regions torn apart by war and disaster, lone refugee children like Anna are the most vulnerable of all. They need food and clean water. But above all, they need to feel safe. Safe from violence and bloodshed. Safe enough to begin recovering from trauma, through comfort and counselling.

When a child like Anna has lost everyone she loves, will you help us protect her?

More than half of all refugees and displaced persons around the world are children. In the conflict and upheaval that forces them to flee their homes, thousands of children lose their parents to violence or become separated from them and endure long journeys on their own.

In 2017, an estimated 173,800 unaccompanied and separated child refugees and asylum-seekers were reported worldwide, of whom 138,700 were assisted by UNHCR operations.

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.