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As They Move — Child and Youth Experiences of Migration, Displacement and Return in Afghanistan
Article

As They Move — Child and Youth Experiences of Migration, Displacement and Return in Afghanistan

Drawing on interviews with children and young people who left Afghanistan and returned, either forcibly or voluntarily since 2021, this blog post presents some poignant narratives about Afghan children’s journeys: their experiences of return, the support they need and their hopes for the future.
How parenting programmes can reduce violence against children and women
Article

How parenting programmes can reduce violence against children and women

UNICEF, Prevention Collaborative, and Equimundo are launching a new research series: Parenting Programmes to Reduce Violence against Children and Women.
Child migration and displacement: why we know so little and what we can do about it
Article

Child migration and displacement: why we know so little and what we can do about it

In 2022, more than 100 million people were forcibly displaced; most recent reports estimate that at least 37 million of this critically vulnerable population are children and youth. Children and youth are increasingly moving as a result of local violence or disaster, without parents and guardians, and through countries where they risk being exposed to smuggling, detention and family separation. Left unaddressed, the disruptions that children experience on their migration journeys can lead to cumulative disadvantages and at the point of repatriation or resettlement, it may be too late to intervene.
The Under-Explored Impact and Potential of Refugee Youth-Led Organisations 
Article

The Under-Explored Impact and Potential of Refugee Youth-Led Organisations 

By Dr. Evan Easton-Calabria (UNICEF Innocenti), Shai Naides, (UNICEF Innocenti) and Rahildaris Antonieta Marchena Herrera (Global Refugee-Led Network) Around the world, there is a rise in recognition of the power and importance of refugee-led organisations (RLOs). Rarely featured in discussions about these however, is the prominent role of refugee youth-led organisations, commonly known as RYLOs. Supporting age diversity within the leadership of organisations created and led by refugees is a key but under-acknowledged area of practice in responding to the needs of forcibly displaced people.  This aspect is even more important when one considers that over half of all refugees are 24 years old or under. The Global Refugee Youth Network (GRYN), for example, aims to support and advance youth-led initiatives through capacity building, networking and advocacy, and provides small grants to RYLOs to implement projects of their own design.  Role of RYLOs in addressing needs and challenges of refugee youth  Conversations with members of GRYN and with leaders of other RYLOs and youth-led refugee initiatives reveal the particular value that the perspective and approaches of young leaders brings to these initiatives. Many informants spoke of the deep understanding that fellow refugee youth have of their challenges and experiences, which can be harnessed to improve organizations’ programming. Notably, several informants highlighted the ‘in between’ role that refugee youth often find themselves in within humanitarian and development settings characterized by protracted displacement: they have aged out of child-targeted programming but are not yet old enough to be considered by many agencies as independent adults. However, they also face similar or greater challenges than refugee adults due to their age and particular situations. For example, teenage pregnancy, rape and sexual abuse are key issues that female refugee youth in particular have to deal with. RYLOs have a unique role to play in supporting fellow refugee youth with such challenges and are an important yet under-acknowledged element of the assistance architecture for young refugees.   A Congolese refugee who lived in a Ugandan settlement as a teenager started a RYLO to address the stigma that teenage mothers faced and to create a space for community support. She explained,I started this group because of my own experience as a child mother, because I didn’t have the chance to access education and I lost my identity as a young girl when I lost my parents and was forced to become child bride. All of that pushed me, and when I gained confidence, I founded that group to bring girls to the table, with the same experience as me, to promote girl’s education and girl’s and women’s rights.   Mismatch between RYLO aims and humanitarian perceptions  Alongside good practices and models for collaboration like the ongoing support of GRYN by the Women’s Refugee Commission, there is also a worrying mismatch between international organisations’ perceptions of refugee youth-led initiatives and their own aims. RYLOs generally have a large focus on income-generation as many refugee youth are either living alone in cities or are the main breadwinners for their families. However, it is common for humanitarian and development agencies’ programs to target artistic development such as painting, music, and dance rather than livelihoods trainings or other forms of support to income generation. RYLO informants describe these activities as being seen as ways to ‘occupy the youth’ and prevent drug use and/or crime.This mismatch reveals the lack of appropriate focus by humanitarian and development organizations on youth capacity and their attempts to improve their lives. Skills development and income generating activities play in fact a critical role in the survival strategies of many. Recognising this, many RYLOs offer income generating trainings themselves. Indeed, the existence of youth-led refugee organisations challenges perceptions and constructions of both youth and refugees as vulnerable and lacking agency, which does not account for the broader reality of the large impact that RYLOs have on many refugee youth’s lives.   RYLOs teach us about true youth-centred programmes design  These different perceptions also highlight the unique value of RYLOs: unlike big funders and international organisations, RYLOs don’t need to create mechanisms for youth inclusion and youth consultations because their strategies and initiatives are inherently youth-centred and youth-led. This is important as the principles of Human-Centred Design applied to programme development indicate that the most effective strategies and solutions come from those individuals and communities which are closest to the challenges. RYLOs’ insights about the challenges and opportunities for young refugees make them critical partners for systemic change and solution pathways that funders, international organisations and host countries can leverage through supporting and engaging them as legitimate and equal partners.   Looking Ahead   Promising progress is being made however, in terms of the evolution of programming and partnerships for RYLOs in ways which recognise and promote the agency and capability of refugee youth.UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies are striving to make youth voices heard. An example of this is UNICEF’s and the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Global Refugee Forum pledge to support the development of Guidelines for Programming with and for young people in humanitarian settings [searchable under ‘UNICEF’]. The International Labour Organization, the UN Refugee Agency, and UNICEF have adopted an initiative to advance young people’s engagement and meaningful participation to improve the prospects of forcibly displaced people in terms of livelihoods and wellbeing (PROSPECTS) Finally, refugee youth themselves are continuing to advocate and act. For example, a formal statement issued by displaced youth on the climate emergency was released for COP27 in 2022 with messages also keenly relevant to the recent COP28. The positive inclusion of both refugee-led orgaisations and refugee youth in the Global Refugee Forum must continue in broader humanitarian and development programming. Around the world, RYLOs continue the daily work of addressing fellow refugee youth’s needs despite limited funding and other resources. As the work of supporting RYLOs continues to expand, the following messages – shared by RYLO leaders and members – are important to heed:  RYLOs exist because young refugees’ needs are not being met. Refugee youth are taking initiative and filling advocacy, programmatic, and funding gaps to improve their lives and the lives of young people in their communities;There is dissonance between the challenges that young refugees face and the type of activities that funders prioritize. Youth-centred approaches to programme and intervention design need to be prioritized; More research is needed to understand the particular challenges and successes of RYLOs, including intersectional challenges such age and gender. In particular, there’s a need to better understand the contextual factor that enable or hinder girls from establishing and leading RYLOs.  Young refugees and RYLOs should have the right to participation as equal partners in decision-making processes concerning their situation. This requires a shift in humanitarian and development agencies’ perceptions and narratives from refugee youth as merely recipients to agents of change.    
A child is in the middle of adults walking around
Article

Child Poverty in the Midst of Wealth: Report Card 18

In a time of general prosperity, more than 69 million children live in poverty in some of the world’s richest countries. Poverty is most often defined by income. But for most children, poverty is about more than just money. It is about growing up in a home without enough heat or nutritious food. Poverty means no new clothes, no telephone and no money for a birthday celebration. These deprivations have consequences that can last a lifetime. Research shows that children in poor families are less likely to complete a good education.1 In some countries, the research indicates that life is eight to nine years shorter for a child born in a poor area than a child born in wealthy area. Ending child poverty and its consequences is a matter of basic rights and justice.
Female Genital Mutilation Evidence Brief - Burkina Faso
Publication

Female Genital Mutilation Evidence Brief - Burkina Faso

This brief presents an overview of the state of the evidence on female genital mutilation in Burkina Faso.
Niger Child Marriage Evidence Brief
Publication

Niger Child Marriage Evidence Brief

This brief presents an overview of the state of the evidence on child marriage in Niger.
Accessibility Features of the Accessible Evidence Gap Map
Video

Accessibility Features of the Accessible Evidence Gap Map

Research tools and outputs often rely heavily on visual presentations of data, which can lead to accessibility barriers. UNICEF Innocenti partnered with Perkins Access and the developers of the EPPI-Mapper to create an evidence and gap mapping tool that not only is more accessible for users, but generates a more accessible visualization map of research evidence. UNICEF is proud to present the world’s first accessible EGM and we strive to continue improving the accessibility of all our research outputs.
How To Use the Accessible Evidence Gap Map
Video

How To Use the Accessible Evidence Gap Map

Research tools and outputs often rely heavily on visual presentations of data, which can lead to accessibility barriers. UNICEF Innocenti partnered with Perkins Access and the developers of the EPPI-Mapper to create an evidence and gap mapping tool that not only is more accessible for users, but generates a more accessible visualization map of research evidence. UNICEF is proud to present the world’s first accessible EGM and we strive to continue improving the accessibility of all our research outputs.
Announcing UNICEF Innocenti's Accessible Evidence Gap Map
Video

Announcing UNICEF Innocenti's Accessible Evidence Gap Map

Research tools and outputs often rely heavily on visual presentations of data, which can lead to accessibility barriers. UNICEF Innocenti partnered with Perkins Access and the developers of the EPPI-Mapper to create an evidence and gap mapping tool that not only is more accessible for users, but generates a more accessible visualization map of research evidence. UNICEF is proud to present the world’s first accessible EGM and we strive to continue improving the accessibility of all our research outputs.
On 21 November 2023, health workers deliver doses of  the cholera vaccine during the cholera vaccination campaign in Madani Gezira State.
Blog

Financing Social Spending in Humanitarian Settings

By: Catherine Agg, and Frank OtchereChildren, particularly those living in poverty, continue to bear the brunt of conflict and humanitarian crises across regions. Nearly 40 per cent of children in countries affected by conflict or fragility live in extreme poverty compared to just 10 per cent for children who live in non-fragile states1. Social services should be prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to reach children before, during and after emergencies. For this to be achieved, financing social spending needs to be at the core of humanitarian appeals and responses.The frequency, duration and complexity of humanitarian crises has multiplied in recent years. Since 2020, the world has seen a series of shocks amounting to a polycrisis. The physical, social and economic impact of conflict, climate change and natural disasters has left at least 363 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023, more than quadruple the people that needed humanitarian assistance in 2013. A disproportionate number of people in need of humanitarian assistance are children.In humanitarian crises children lose access to critical health, education and social protection services. Available evidence shows that humanitarian crises are increasingly concentrated in the poorest countries. Of the top 10 countries by number of people in need of humanitarian assistance (Table 1), seven are low-income, and six are in, or at high risk of, debt distress, with levels of debt that threaten their financial stability2. In these countries, humanitarian requirements for health, education and social protection often outweigh total government spending on the sector, putting children’s lives and their wellbeing at risk.Table 1. Top 10 countries by number of people in humanitarian, July 2023Key: Red = Potential area of concern. C = conflict; D = Displacement; NH = Natural Hazard. Data sources: OCHA Global Humanitarian Overview, 2023; OECD DAC data 2023; Health Nutrition and Population Statistics, 2022; Development Initiatives 2023.Humanitarian assistance from external sources is therefore a critical source of funding in these contexts. However, despite the growing need, the provision of effective humanitarian assistance is threatened by significant funding shortfalls. In 2022, just 57 per cent of the humanitarian aid requested through the UN-Coordinated appeals was raised, and in the 17 out of the 28 countries with Humanitarian Response Plans, pledged funding met less than 50 per cent of assessed needs. For 2023, the predicted funding gap could be even larger, with just 25 per cent of the total funding required received as of July 2023.This level of underfunding, particularly in social sectors, not only affects the life chances of children today, but has wider implications for recovery from, and prevention of, future crises. While governments are primarily responsible for providing an adequate humanitarian response, underfunding and lack of preparedness continues to affect social sectors in emergencies, with health, education and social protection sectors all requiring increased funds to meet growing needs.Challenges by sectorEven relatively stable low- and middle-income countries struggle to adequately fund social services. On average, spending on health, education and social protection in low- and middle-income countries remains below the recommended minimum levels required to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For countries facing humanitarian crises, often in the poorest parts of the world, this challenge is magnified.Health services face the biggest funding gap with an extra $3.9 billion needed worldwide for health in humanitarian settings. This deficit puts children at risk of being cut off from essential care, in contexts where the threat of disease and malnutrition soars. The countries facing the highest ratio of humanitarian requirements over current government spending are Yemen, where health requirements are 4.2 times the size of current government health spending, Afghanistan, with needs 2.6 times the current government health spending, Syria with 2.5 times current government health spending, and South Sudan, where health requirements are more than the current government health spending.Education services also require a further $3.1 billion globally to cover estimated humanitarian costs. This funding gap not only threatens children’s right to education, out-of-school children face a greater risk from the physical and psychological dangers around them. Syria’s humanitarian requirements for education currently amount to over three times current government expenditure on the education sector. Humanitarian requirements for education in Afghanistan, Yemen and South Sudan are also high in proportion to current government spending, making up the equivalent of 43.1 per cent, 35.9 per cent and 28.3 per cent of government expenditure on education respectively.Although data is harder to come by for humanitarian cash transfers (HCTs) – the  cash or voucher assistance that UNICEF and other agencies provide to assist families caught up in crises – the estimated costs of HCTs are significantly higher than current government social protection expenditure in the countries most affected3. HCTs distributed in Afghanistan are estimated to be over 3.4 times the value of government social protection spending in the country. In Yemen the ratio is higher – over 4.6 times the value of government social protection spending; and in Syria it is 15.8 times the value of current social protection spending. More sustainable solutions to financing social spending in humanitarian emergencies are required. There is a growing evidence base that suggests that the under-funding of social services not only restricts response and recovery times, adequately funded social services play a significant role in preventing humanitarian crises. These findings highlight the need for the humanitarian system to focus attention on the financing social spending for children caught up in armed conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies.Recommendations A woman carries containers with clean and safe water collected from a water bladder in Zalingei Town, Central Darfur.To bridge the funding gap and adequately finance social spending in humanitarian contexts, the following four actions are recommended to address the growing need:Investing in anticipation, preparedness and resilience. Despite the recommendations of the UN High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, 93 per cent of humanitarian aid continues to go to emergency response, with just 4.5 per cent going to disaster prevention and just 1.9 per cent to reconstruction, relief and rehabilitation. Ensuring that sufficient flexible humanitarian finance is available to social sectors in low-and middle-income countries – with a greater proportion of humanitarian Official Development Assistance (ODA), climate finance and development lending going towards preparedness and resilience – will allow governments to provide quality social services in emergencies. Accelerating the harmonisation of donor support. Efforts to align humanitarian, development and climate finance by donors and UN agencies are critical to ensure better coordination and long-term financing, with greater use of pooled and unearmarked funds. This will also involve harmonising financing at sector level: integrating humanitarian cash transfers within existing social protection systems, and better support for displaced children within local health and education systems.Strengthening public finance systems. Greater support from development partners to governments in low- and middle-income countries to strengthen their public finance systems is essential to improve their capacity to assess, prepare and respond to shocks. This should include prioritizing investments in preparedness and contingency plans as essential pillars of programming, as well as more equitable access to global insurance and risk finance markets, to allow governments to establish affordable pre-arranged financing mechanisms for humanitarian response.Improving effectiveness and accountability of the use of humanitarian funds. With ever growing levels of unmet humanitarian need for social spending, especially in the education and health sectors, more detailed analysis of both the level of requested support, and the impact of the funding gap is required. Greater progress on tracking humanitarian cash transfers is required to improve the transparency and accountability of humanitarian reporting at global and country level. These findings highlight the need for increased, sustainable long-term financing of humanitarian assistance, with a greater focus on prevention. Governments bear a significant proportion of the costs caused by disasters and establishing pre-arranged financing mechanisms for scaling up established government programmes in the event of a crisis is crucial. Children in need of humanitarian assistance are particularly vulnerable given their time-sensitive needs for education, health, and protection. It is therefore essential that humanitarian assistance addresses not only immediate need but also contributes to the strengthening of social services in all low-and middle-income countries. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________1 https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/1-6-children-lives-extreme-poverty-world-bank-unicef-analysis-shows2 Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Sudan, Pakistan, Ukraine, South Sudan.3 While HCT expenditure is not directly comparable to government social protection spending, the ratio of expenditure is given here to highlight the scale of the challenge of providing adequate social protection in humanitarian settings. ###This blog is based on a forthcoming Social Spending Monitor Report on Financing Social Services in Humanitarian Settings. The Social Spending Publication Series is a joint collaboration between UNICEF Social Policy (Public Finance for Children) Programme Group and UNICEF Innocenti - Global Office of Research and Foresight. The authors are grateful to Buthaina Al-Iryani, Orria Goni Delzangles and Natalia Winder-Rossi for their technical guidance.
The Under-Examined Role of Refugee-Led Organisations in Assisting Refugee Children
Article

The Under-Examined Role of Refugee-Led Organisations in Assisting Refugee Children

By Dr. Evan Easton-Calabria (UNICEF Innocenti) The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of local communities as both providers of assistance and partners of established aid actors, building on existing localisation efforts in the humanitarian sector. This is particularly true of organisations and initiatives started and led by refugees themselves, known as refugee-led organisations (RLOs). Notably, many RLOs provide crucial services to refugee children, ranging from education to child protection. Others are youth-led, as discussed in a companion blog article, illustrating child participation in action and one of many ways young people take ownership over finding their own solutions. At the onset of the pandemic, as many established aid actors withdrew from local service provision, RLOs around the world stepped in as first responders, providing emergency food rations to fellow refugees during lockdowns, sewing masks, raising awareness about COVID-19 hygiene and sanitation protocols, and more. In part due to their prominence in delivering support when many other organisations were limited in their ability to do so in person, refugee-led organisations have become an increasingly widespread topic of discussion within the humanitarian sector. This is also reflected in funding flows, with new financing mechanisms for refugee-led organisations now worth over 50 million USD - illustrating a clear increase since the onset of COVID-19 in the visibility of and investment in refugee-led organisations. The importance of informal support to refugee children and youth Despite growing recognition of the many ways in which refugee-led organisations offer support to their communities, there is a significant lack of recognition of their critical role in both discourse and evidence, which can be attributed to their under-utilization in programming and their still limited visibility in policy. In particular, there is a clear need for more rigorous empirical research into RLOs to provide evidence and insights to support more impactful programming. This gap is particularly significant in policy and practitioner discussions on RLOs’ roles in supporting child protection and wellbeing – a critical aspect given research findings on the importance of informal support provision to migrant and displaced children. For example, as the UNICEF report ‘Reimagining Migration Responses found: ‘Scarcely any children or young people who said they felt scared said they would turn for help to the police or other authorities; they were more likely to turn to religious leaders, international charities [including community-based organisations] and teachers.’ Almost half of respondents stated that they thought a community leader would help them if they were in need compared to approximately 40% saying they believed a government official or police would help them. These findings on the importance of community assistance, whether it be members of the community, grassroot organisations, or faith-based leaders, underscore the relevance of refugee-led grassroots efforts to provide safety and assistance for refugee children and youth.  Countless examples of RLOs assisting children and families Through my work and research with RLOs in Eastern and the Horn of Africa over the last ten years, I have seen first-hand the significant assistance that RLOs provide to refugee children and their families. In a refugee settlement in Uganda, refugee leaders explained how their organisation acts as a first responder in child protection cases, helping children directly when they can and referring them onwards to services or the authorities when they cannot. In Nairobi, an organisation started by a Somali refugee offers English and computer classes to children (many of whom are not in formal schooling) as well as a safe space to convene. In Berlin, refugees have created their own library, including for children, and others have developed programming for at-risk refugee youth. Multiple RLOs offer emergency shelter for unaccompanied children or mothers and children and also organise children and youth activities such as football. Several RLOs even run their own Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes. One RLO director started his own ECD and primary school class for children in a Ugandan refugee settlement during lockdown, working with children as young as two years old, in an effort to create a space for learning and to protect children dealing with domestic abuse. In Kampala, the RLO Bondeko Refugee Livelihoods Centre leads an education project with ECD components for children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Importantly, refugee-led initiatives for children often arise out of a gap in existing humanitarian and development programming. Of the ECD programme, for example, Bondeko’s director stated:We noticed that at that age there is no support at all from UNHCR or other stakeholders in the field of education – they prefer to give support to children in primary school. But the fact is that children refugees are reaching primary school and they are not competitive with nationals who went through kindergarten or nursery…our program aims to help refugee children to be competitive.  Advancing evidence and learning on refugee-led child programming These and countless other examples illustrate how refugee-led organisations are places where significant innovative good practice in child and youth programming occurs. These organisations offer real opportunities for agencies like UNICEF to help scale up important and currently under-utilised practices. Doing so also provides important pathways to widen humanitarian localisation by focusing on those needs that refugees themselves have identified through supporting solutions that they have developed. As one leader of a refugee youth-led organisation explained, ‘When big agencies come they don’t see what’s on the ground and they don’t see what’s missing because they have their own projects. This doesn’t work. But we give opportunities for refugees to come up with their own project, to design it with them, and to help with implementation.’ Presented below are some recommendations for policy, practice and research to further advance refugee-led child programming.  Recommendations for Policy & Practice  Improve meaningful representation and inclusion of RLOs in local/regional consortia or clusters on different areas of child wellbeing. RLOs have a deep understanding of the main challenges faced by refugee children and families; including RLO leaders and staff in relevant stakeholder meetings can increase learning and the potential for partnerships. Formalise channels between RLOs and local authorities, NGOs, and INGOs for referring child protection cases and other referral needs. This could occur through facilitating introductions, partnerships, and MoUs between relevant stakeholders in particular neighbourhoods or regions. Increase funding to RLOs for child and youth programming. RLOs need stable financial support to run operations (most employees are in fact volunteers); this includes funding to pay for rent and to pay employees in addition to resources for child programming.  Next steps in research  The following types of research could increase the evidence base on RLOs and child programming as well as improve knowledge for policy and practice: In-depth case studies of the work of RLOs in child protection and wellbeing to address the current lack of qualitative data on this topic.Surveys of RLOs to better understand the prevalence of child- and youth-focused programming, including the types of support offered and RLOs’ needs and challenges in providing it. Qualitative research with refugee-serving NGOs, IOs, and INGOS to understand their level of engagement with RLOs and to better understand how RLOs could contribute to their work and vice-versa (e.g. opportunities, barriers, needs).