Photo taken on Nov. 29, 2019 shows children playing in the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos island, Greece. Europe should share responsibility and help ease the suffering of thousands of refugees and migrants living in Greece, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said on Nov. 28. (Photo by Lefteris Partsalis/Xinhua)
Photo taken on Nov. 29, 2019 shows children playing in the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos island, Greece. Europe should share responsibility and help ease the suffering of thousands of refugees and migrants living in Greece, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said on Nov. 28. (Photo by Lefteris Partsalis/Xinhua)

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Monday called for support for displaced children amid the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Displaced children are among those with the most limited access to prevention services, testing, treatment and other essential support, they said in a joint statement.

In addition, the pandemic and containment measures are likely to have negative consequences for their safety and education, which were precarious even before the outbreak of the disease, they said.

Going to school was already a daily challenge or impossibility for many displaced children around the world. Less than half of all school-aged refugee children were enrolled, with that dropping to one in four for secondary school. More displaced children are now likely to be out of school for a prolonged period and some might never return, they warned.

In some cases, children are also going without meals or clean water because of school closures. There are likely to be increasing rates of neglect, abuse, gender-based violence and child marriage as families experience further socio-economic hardships. And there is a growing risk of stigmatization and prejudice as the virus spreads across borders and instills fear, they said.

At a time when needs for support and attention multiply, the pandemic response must include clear commitments to the protection and well-being of forcibly displaced children, they added.

Like all children globally, refugee children deserve a fair chance in life, and to see their rights fully realized. Though their lives have been disrupted by violence, displacement and now a pandemic, their chances for a dignified future will be bolstered if they have equitable access to the support and services they need, they said.

Millions of children around the world have been driven from their homes and across borders by conflict, violence and other forms of harm, including 12.7 million refugees and 1.1 million asylum seekers, according to the statement. Enditem

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