A snapshot of migrant and displaced children in Africa

12 February, 2019 By UNICEF Data

This past weekend, UNICEF called on leaders at the African Union Summit to work together to respond to the needs of uprooted children across the continent and to address the negative drivers of irregular migration – among these are conflict, violence and persecution. African governments were urged to take action against these root causes and to implement policies to protect, empower and invest in refugee, migrant and displaced children. To guide these discussions and improve the understanding of how migration and forced displacement affect children and families in Africa, UNICEF prepared a brochure based on the latest data.


5 key findings emerged:


1) More international migrants move within Africa than beyond the continent

As of 2017, over 19 million Africans lived outside their country of birth but still within the continent. An additional 17 million Africans have migrated from the continent since birth. The bulk of these emigrants have gone to Europe (55 per cent) and to Asia (26 per cent), mostly the Gulf States.

2) 1 in 4 international migrants in Africa is a child – 6.5 million in total

Africa has the largest share of children among its migrant population – over one in four immigrants in Africa is a child, more than twice the global average. The share is particularly large in Western and Eastern Africa, where in countries like Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya children account for more than 40 per cent of the immigrant population.

3) More than half of all refugees in Africa are children, 4 million in total

At the end of 2017, 7.4 million refugees originated from African countries – 2 million more than the previous year, and children are disproportionately represented among them. Some 57 per cent of all African refugees are children – totaling more than 4 million.


4) An estimated 7 million children in Africa are internally displaced

In total more than 14 million persons are internally displaced in Africa due to conflict and violence, half of them is estimated to be children. The Democratic Republic of the Congo alone holds 4.5 million of the internally displaced persons at the end of 2017. In 2017, 4.7 million persons across Africa got newly displaced within their own country representing 40 percent of the new replacement globally for that year.



5) Almost 2 million former refugees and internally displaced persons returned to their homes in 2017

UNHCR counted over 500 thousand former refugees and 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) having returned to their homes during 2017 – though, the actual numbers may be significantly higher. Nigeria and Sudan alone accounted for 380 thousand returnees.

To learn more, access the Data Snapshot of Migrant and Displaced Children in Africa