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Spring 2016

Ambassador Edition

Children on the Move Millions of young people are fleeing danger, conflict, and poverty. How can they be protected?

INSIDE THIS ISSUE: Mapping Paths to Safety page 3 A Look at One Teen's Life on the Move page 4 What Is Being Done to Help Child Refugees? page 6 What Can You Do? page 8 Bonus: America's Crisis of Unaccompanied Child Migrants page 7

Spr i n g 20 1 6

Kids Seeking Safety


A Map of Migration Paths 3 One Boy’s Life on the Move


Children’s Rights in Danger 5 UNICEF's Chris Tidey Reports


Child Migrants from Latin America 7 Kids Helping Kids: Meet Bouchra 8

UNICEF works in more than 190 countries to help kids survive and grow. UNICEF supplies medicines, vaccines, clean water, nutrition, education, and more. UNICEF also responds during emergencies, such as earthquakes, floods, or war. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF raises awareness and funds in the United States to support UNICEF’s lifesaving work.


magine if every child in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, and Ohio were forced to leave home. That would be a huge disaster—more than 30 million children on the run. It isn’t happening in the United States, but 30 million kids are fleeing their homes in Asia, Africa, and Central America. These young people are trying to escape war, violence, hunger, disease, and hopelessness. Most are traveling with their parents. Some are traveling alone. All are searching for a safe place, and all need support and protection. This massive movement of refugees is a global migration emergency. Children and families are being forced to leave their homes in many places, including • Iraq and Yemen, two war-torn countries in the Middle East; • Afghanistan, in Central Asia, battered by more than 14 years of war; • South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and other violence-plagued African countries; • Central America, where teens are fleeing gangs and drug dealers.

The crisis is most severe in Syria, a country in the Middle East. Since 2011, Syria has been devastated by civil war. More than 4.7 million Syrians have left for neighboring countries. Many hope to get to countries in Europe. People have been walking hundreds of miles in harsh weather or taking rickety boats across the Mediterranean Sea. Some countries are closing their borders to refugees, while other countries are taking in thousands. World leaders are working to solve the crisis. More than 120 humanitarian groups, including UNICEF, recently issued an urgent appeal for the war to end. The fighting, however, continues. n


Crisis, a boldface word in the story above, means “a time of great difficulty or danger.” What do you know about the other boldface terms?

UNICEF ACT is a publication of TeachUNICEF, the Education Department of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Visit for additional resources. Written by Clara Colbert, edited by POE Communications COVER PHOTO: © UNICEF/ UNI196188/Georgiev; inset photo: © UNICEF/UNI05570/ Georgiev

Migrants prepare to board a train to continue their journey in Europe.


1    Refugees have been forced to a) return to their home. b) leave their country. c) guard a border.

3    A civil war is fought between a) armies of rival nations. b) c itizens within the same country. c) c ountries that border each other.

2    A synonym for migration is a) exploration. b) development. c) movement.

4    Humanitarian groups provide a) emergency supplies. b) weapons. c) misinformation.

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Ambassador Edition

this page: © UNICEF/UNI197517/Gilbertson VII Photo; © UNICEF/UNI195375/Georgiev, opposite page: Map courtesy of


Kids Seeking Safety

Routes to Refuge: A Map of Migration Paths

Where are refugees coming from and going to, and how are they migrating? Use the information on this map and what you have read to answer the questions below. WHERE REFUGEE CHILDREN CAME TO EUROPE FROM (2015)


number of children (rounded to nearest hundred) 80,000







50,000 40,000






Top five countries in Europe where children were seeking safety in 2015





*Only includes home countries outside Europe.
















n Syria n Afghanistan n Iraq n Nigeria n Iran






GREECE Athens Mediterranean Sea


Aleppo SYRIA







Source: Eurostat

1 In which European country did the most children seek safety in 2015? How many more or fewer children did it receive than Austria and Hungary combined?

2 Which two countries have the longest borders with Syria? Research which of those two countries has received many more Syrian refugees than the other. Why might that be so?

Ambassador Edition

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One Boy’s Life on the Move Like Millions of Other Children, Mustapha Hopes for a Safer Home in Another Country


hirteen-year-old Mustapha and his family were forced to leave their home in Aleppo, Syria, last year: “There was always war,” he recalls. “We were always afraid.” As the war closed in on his neighborhood, he worried constantly. Would his house get bombed? Would his family have enough to eat? Eventually, one of Mustapha’s older brothers fled to Germany to avoid being taken away by rebel groups or the Syrian army. “When he left, I cried,” Mustapha remembers. Later the family had to make its own terrifying decision: Should they stay and risk being killed in the war—or leave their home and everything they owned? Mustapha and his family are among the almost 11 million Syrians who have had to move since the country’s civil war began in 2011. About 6 million of them escaped the war’s violence but stayed within Syria. Another 4.7 million are waiting out the war at overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have headed for countries in Europe. After crossing the border into Turkey, Mustapha’s family paid smugglers to get them across the Mediterranean Sea. They survived the short but harrowing journey and ended up in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. The camp was teeming with people, and the family slept on the ground in the open air. They


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have hundreds of miles to go before reaching their ultimate destination—Germany. Worried About His New Home Like many child refugees, Mustapha doesn’t go to school. He often thinks of home and the friends he left behind. He wonders how he’ll make new friends in Germany since he doesn’t speak German. The future is unclear for these refugees. Those who face the greatest dangers at home may be granted asylum, which would allow them to stay in Europe permanently. Many are stuck in temporary shelters or will eventually be sent home. Leaders in many European countries are reluctant to accept migrants. Some fear doing so will only encourage others to follow. Others worry that migrants will put a strain on their economies. Mustapha is looking forward to starting a new life in Germany. But what he really wants is to go home again. “If Syria is rebuilt, we will go back for sure.” n Watch Mustapha talk about his journey at


How would you react if Mustapha’s story were yours? What challenges might you face adjusting to life in a new country? What would you miss most? What would you hope to get from your new country? Ambassador Edition

Children’s Rights in Danger Opposite page: © UNICEF/UNI197053/Romenzi, THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM LOWER LEFT: © UNICEF/UNI156372/Noorani; © UNICEF/UNI150181/Noorani; © UNICEF/UNI201668/Georgiev; © UNICEF/UNI197806/Gilbertson VII PHOTO

Life in transit—moving from one place to another—is hard for anyone, but especially for kids. “Refugee children face challenges that are different from adults’ challenges,” says Chris Tidey, emergency communications officer for UNICEF. Children are guaranteed rights by an international agreement (see “This Agreement Protects All Children,” page 7) but those human rights are often difficult to protect.

The Right to Health Kids, especially the youngest, are more prone to disease and illness than adults. UNICEF’s Chris Tidey notes, “Some children require urgent medical attention for illnesses they have contracted during the trip. Many have been exposed to traumatic events in their home countries or on the journey and require [emotional] support.”

The Right to Learn Many refugee children have been out of school for more than two years. “This undermines their development and their prospects, including career opportunities as adults,” Tidey points out.

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The Right to Play “Lack of school also deprives children of a sense of normalcy, socialization, and the opportunity to be kids,” Tidey says. “It is hard for children on the move to play and have fun like most other children can do.”

The Right to Protection “More than 7,000 people may pass through a given border crossing on a single day. These situations can become chaotic, and children have been separated from their families in the large crowds,” says Tidey. Other children, usually teenagers, may flee their home countries on their own. “These children are at increased risk of abuse.” n

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‘The Best We Can, As Quickly as Possible’

What Is Being Done to Help Child Refugees?

1. Providing medical supplies and care: Workers make sure

Children draw in a child-friendly space in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.


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children have food and water when they arrive at reception centers. Children who get sick during the journey receive medical treatment. During the winter’s harsh conditions, kids received warm clothing and blankets. Tidey worries what the spring and summer will bring: “It’s quite possible that the humanitarian situation could become even more challenging if the number of people on the move increases with the warmer weather or if countries in Europe implement [tighter] border restrictions, potentially leaving people stranded.” 2. Creating child-friendly spaces: “These are safe, warm places where children can play and mothers can rest,” Tidey explains. “Our spaces are clearly marked so that children and families know where to go when they enter reception centers.

UNICEF’s Chris Tidey comforts a crying boy on a rainy day.

Our staff and volunteers also inform families with children of the services available when they arrive.” Inside, kids can play with

This Agreement Protects All Children Even in the middle of war and violence, children have rights. Nearly 200 countries agreed to that in a United Nations treaty, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says “Children under 18 are entitled to needs, special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection.” This convention includes the right to grow up in a healthy, clean, safe environment, to education, and to be protected from hazards and abuse—in times of war and of peace. All of these rights are essential, says UNICEF’s Chris Tidey. He adds, “Sadly, the reality for many children on the move is that some or all of their rights are not being realized. This cannot continue.” Ambassador Edition

THIS PAGE, FROM TOP: © UNICEF/UNI196249; © UNICEF/UN011172/Georgiev, Opposite page: © UNICEF/UNI176266/Ojeda


NICEF and other organizations are on the ground helping child refugees from Syria and around the world. It’s not easy: People on their way to someplace else “just want to move on,” explains Chris Tidey. UNICEF has set up reception centers along heavily traveled routes to address people’s immediate needs and ensure that children’s rights are protected. “We do the best we can, as quickly as possible,” Tidey says. “We are working to ensure that refugee and migrant children have access to the essential services they need to thrive. The best interests of the child guide everything we do.” Here are some ways in which UNICEF and other organizations are helping refugee kids.

toys, games, and do arts and crafts. They are also screened to see if they need help to deal with trauma they may have experienced at home or along the journey.

3. Helping lost children: When children get separated from their families at crowded border crossings, Tidey says humanitarian and government

Closer to Home: Child Migrants from Latin America “Children on the Move” is not just a problem on the other side of the world. A similar crisis has been taking place along the United States’ southern border with Mexico. Over the past few years, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have risked their lives to cross illegally into the United States. Most are desperate to escape gang violence and poverty. These children have come from Central America— mainly El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, three of the poorest countries in Latin America, where drug gangs patrol the streets. “I left because I had problems with gangs,” said Mario, who fled El Salvador when he was 17. “I have many friends who were killed or disappeared because they refused to join the gang.… I knew I had to leave.” Currently, U.S. law says that children who enter the country alone from nations that don’t border the United States have a right to an immigration hearing to decide whether or not they will be granted asylum. Ambassador Edition

Unaccompanied migrant children follow the rails in Mexico to an uncertain future in the United States.

While the children await their hearings, they are sent to live with family members or in shelters throughout the United States. Most are eventually sent home—but children still keep coming. The surge in child migrants has sparked a debate across the United States over how—and whether—the U.S. government should help them. UNICEF works to protect these children at centers along their dangerous journeys south of the border. And when children are sent home from the United States, UNICEF helps ensure their safe return. The organization works in kids’ home countries to get them into school and away from crime and drugs— all to improve kids’ lives. UNICEF also presses local governments to address the problems in their communities, hoping to keep these children from being on the run in the first place.

officials “work quickly to make sure the separated children are kept safe in a secure place, while their family members are tracked down so they can be reunited.” 4. Restoring access to education: The organization works to ensure that children have access to education in their destination countries. “UNICEF is working with government authorities on curriculum development and getting kids into language training courses right away,” points out Chris Tidey. In kids’ home countries, UNICEF also works with other organizations to provide learning opportunities for children affected by conflict. n

DEBATE IT What should the United States do? “We can both maintain the highest security standards and live up to our best traditions as Americans by welcoming those in need,” says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Some Americans disagree: They worry that admitting more refugees to the United States will endanger the country’s well-being. As a class, debate this issue: Should the United States take in children and families facing harm at home—or should we tighten our borders while we deal with threats from abroad and economic uncertainty at home?

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A New Day for Syria

How My High School Club Is Helping Syrian Refugees

y family is from the Middle East. So when I heard about the Syrian refugee crisis, it really hit home. I wanted to make a difference to the people suffering. I thought it could have just as easily been me in their place. The UNICEF club I started at my school in Massachusetts held a couple of fundraisers to support UNICEF’s work helping refugees. Then we heard about a local charity called NuDay Syria. It is a nonprofit organization that brings humanitarian aid to displaced people inside Syria and in nearby countries. Each

month, NuDay Syria sends two cargo containers (40-foot-long metal shipping boxes) packed with clothing, food, medical supplies, and toys to refugee camps in northern Syria. NuDay Syria invites people to help organize and pack materials to be sent to Syria. We found that there was a NuDay warehouse about an hour away, and a group of us went there. We spent our entire Saturday volunteering, from helping throw 30-pound bags of rice off trucks to organizing mountains of donated clothes. Even though it was hard and tiring, it was a fun experience that brought us all together for a great cause, and we’ll be going to each volunteer date from now on. We

realized that all it takes to make an impact in other kids’ lives is the desire to help. No matter how big or small the action you take, any impact counts! n Bouchra Benghomari is an 11th grader at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and president of her school's UNICEF club.

Want to help child refugees in Syria and other places around the world? You can! n Speak out for child refugees by writing the U.S. President a letter. Ask for greater U.S. leadership to get humanitarian aid to refugees and to resolve conflicts affecting children. n Write to other federal officials—your U.S. Representative and Senator—to voice your support for helping child refugees. n Start your own fundraiser to help children on the run and donate the money. You can find ideas for school-based fundraisers at n Help refugees directly by volunteering for a local organization that provides aid, such as food and clothing, for refugees. n Be a “buddy” to new students at school who have come to your community from other countries.


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Ambassador Edition

Photo: Courtesy of Bouchra Benghomari


By Bouchra Benghomari

Children on the Move, Ambassador Edition  

Millions of kids are trying to escape violence and poverty. What can be done to keep them safe?

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