The Unprotected: Overview of the Impact of Humanitarian Crises on Children in 2023

As we reflect on 2023 and embark on a new year, the Alliance is deeply concerned about the devastating consequences of increasing armed conflict, climate-induced emergencies, and disasters associated with natural hazards on children around the world. 

In 2023, the violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) reached alarming levels, leaving one in five children globally living in or fleeing conflict zones. The toll on children is alarming, with increased recruitment, maiming, and killing by armed forces, along with abductions and sexual violence. Armed groups exploit essential services, attacking hospitals and schools, while life-saving humanitarian aid is deliberately denied. The impact on children's physical, emotional, and mental health is profound, with lifelong consequences if left unaddressed.

The UN Secretary General's 2023 report on Children and Armed Conflict revealed record-breaking numbers of grave violations against children. Situations with the highest numbers of children affected were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Israel and the State of Palestine, Somalia, Ukraine, and Syria. Attacks on schools and hospitals surged, and child recruitment increased, painting a grim picture. The current conflict in Gaza stands out as the deadliest for children, necessitating an immediate ceasefire to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

Children have the right to a safe and healthy environment, yet the climate crisis continues unabated. Devastating earthquakes in Syria, Afghanistan, Türkiye, and Morocco have exacted an enormous toll on children and their families, straining social protection mechanisms already weakened by previous crises. Economic vulnerability exacerbates child protection risks, such as trafficking, child labour, psychosocial distress, child marriage, family separation, and recruitment and use by armed forces and armed groups, with funding shortfalls leading to cuts in vital assistance.

As more and more people are forced to flee situations of conflict, violence, and climate-induced disasters, the number of forcibly displaced people reached another record high in 2023 and is now over 114 million people. Children affected by forced displacement and statelessness face heightened risks of violence, neglect, abuse, and exploitation.

Amidst these crises, the Alliance calls for urgent action and investment in three critical areas in 2024:

  1. Invest in the Child Protection Workforce — it is the key asset to protect children in crises 
  2. Prioritise preventing harm while continuing the response to urgent needs
  3. Join us - Every actor across the humanitarian system has a role to play in protecting children

As we look ahead to 2024 and beyond it is imperative that children’s rights are protected as a priority, before, during, and post conflict and crises

Resource Info

Resource Type

Advocacy Brief


Published by

Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action


Child Protection