A future for Syria’s children

19.10.2016 – United Nations Day is on 24 October. Olaf Kjørven explains how UNICEF is helping protect child refugees and what role partners such as GIZ can play.

Displacement and migration particularly affect children and youth: Children under the age of 18 make up only about one-third of the global population, but half of them are refugees. Nearly 50 million children worldwide have had to leave their homes. These numbers are taken from the report ‘Uprooted’, which the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published at the beginning of September 2016. Against this background Olav Kjørven, Director of UNICEF’s Public Partnerships Division, highlights the special protection that these children need and the importance of cooperation with partner organisations.

‘Among refugees, children face particularly dangerous risks,’ said Kjørven during a visit to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Eschborn. ‘It’s a very treacherous journey and for the children and adolescents there are so many dangers: the risks involved of crossing oceans, trafficking, kidnapping, deprivation and the lack of access to learning.’ Furthermore, they are often victims of exclusion, discrimination and xenophobia in the transit and destination countries in which they find themselves. ‘Children are children,’ explains Kjørven. ‘We should do what we can for them to feel safe and to arrive at a place they call home.’

UNICEF is also working in the countries neighbouring Syria which are particularly strongly affected by the refugee movements from the civil war-ravaged country. The aid organisation is working together with GIZ. ‘We cannot save the children of Syria on our own,’ underlines Kjørven. ‘We have to work through partnership – with local authorities and NGOs, with international NGOs and with our bilateral partners such as GIZ.’ For example, GIZ and UNICEF are working in refugee camps in northern Iraq to improve infrastructure and organise education courses. ‘We benefit from the technical skills and expertise of GIZ and I believe GIZ also benefits from our expertise.’

You can find the complete interview with Olaf Kjørven in the section ‘A safe place for refugees’.