Child protection in emergencies

Disasters, conflicts and other humanitarian crises can have devastating effects on children and young people, both in terms of immediate physical and emotional impact, and potential long term psychological damage. Support and protective systems, including families and communities, as well as services are often undermined or disrupted.

As a result, children and young people are exposed to new threats, such as loss of or separation from their families, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and recruitment into armed groups. Furthermore, existing harmful practices such as child labour and child marriage can be exacerbated. Often several of these threats are experienced at the same time.

Plan International works with children, their families, communities and local authorities to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation with urgent, life-saving actions. Our programmes ensure the protection needs of children and young people are met, with particular attention paid to the unique risks faced by adolescent girls.

Preventing harm and responding to violence in emergencies. Child protection in emergencies.

Preventing harm and responding to violence

Our child protection in emergencies work includes:

  • Addressing urgent needs: We support national child protection systems to deliver case management services (social work-type support) to children and their families. We ensure children with urgent protection needs are identified and receive timely, age and gender- appropriate and inclusive services. In many cases, this means searching for separated family members and linking children to caring and protective foster families. 
  • Strengthening families and communities: Children and their families suffer both physically and mentally in the aftermath of an emergency. In response, we create safe environments for children and young people through child-friendly spaces where they can access support networks, psychosocial counselling, life-saving information, life skills training and be referred to other services. Parenting courses are also provided to help caregivers develop skills to cope with crises. 
  • Strengthening local systems: We partner with civil society organisations, community leaders, local governments, academics, activists and NGOs to meet the needs of children. We provide training for and build the capacity of partners to support existing structures within communities that keep children safe.
  • Influencing: Building from lessons learned in programme evaluations, research, needs assessments and contextual analyses, we influence policy, practice, and budgets on child protection in disaster resilience, preparedness, response and recovery at international, national, and local levels.

Jemma’s journey to the world’s largest refugee camp

Jemma tells the story of her journey from the conflict in South Sudan to the world’s largest refugee camp, Bidi Bidi in northern Uganda.

Tackling exploitation and violence

Children and their families often resort to child labour and/or child marriage as a coping mechanism to deal with food insecurity. Likewise, children who are out of school are more vulnerable to child labour and recruitment in armed groups.  

We are working to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, including trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced and hazardous labour by working across sectors.

In addition, we work with and for adolescent girls who are subject to particular risks during emergencies, including gender-based violence, and are not equally equipped with the knowledge, mobility or assets to get life-saving help. 

We also work to prevent and respond to child marriage in humanitarian settings, which is often exacerbated during emergencies. 

Mobile child-protection services keep migrant children safe

In Bogota, Colombia, we’re responding to the needs of migrants and refugees from Venezuela.

Global engagement

Plan International is a core member of the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (ACPHA) in which it takes a leadership role on the Learning and Development Working Group and the Child Labour in Humanitarian Action, Cash and Child Protection, Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups and Community-Level Child Protection Task Forces.

Plan International is also leading the Prevention initiative under the ACPHA. We are a member of the Strategic Advisory Group for the  Child Protection Area of Responsibility and a new Core Member of the Gender Based Violence Area of Responsibility