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Challenges Of Youth In Humanitarian Settings

What are the particular challenges of youth in humanitarian settings?

Conflict, crime and other forms of violence affect young people’s lives in more ways than mortality. Although these effects are often unrecorded, young people suffer from a wide range of short-, medium- and long-term effects, ranging from repeat victimization, psychological trauma, identity-based discrimination, and social and economic exclusion.

In depth…

The challenges can be different for certain groups of youth. For example, the risks of child marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse and unwanted pregnancy are higher for girls and young women, while the risks of association with armed groups, being radicalized or being targeted for harassment by police may be higher for boys and young men. Young people with particular vulnerabilities, like youth with disabilities, migrants or refugees, face heightened obstacles to the realization of their rights in the humanitarian context.

Overall, young people face many challenges in humanitarian settings, including, among others:

  • During a conflict or disaster, a young person’s educational, social and emotional development may be interrupted. Emergencies can cause health problems and lead to new impairments, rupture families and social networks, expose young people to new risks, and restrict access to vital goods and services.
  • Already experiencing age-based discrimination, young people in humanitarian settings face further marginalization and stigmatization due to stereotypes that associate youth with violence.
  • Young people can face victimization and traumatization at the hands of armed groups, terrorists or violent extremist groups, gangs and organized crime networks, repressive governments and, in numerous countries, law enforcement personnel and criminal justice systems.
  • Repressive conditions often present in the countries facing conflict or insecurity, affect the collective freedom of movement, assembly and expression, and shut down youth organizations, peacebuilding initiatives and peaceful movements in the name of counter-terrorism or the pretext of preventing violent extremism. The shrinking civic space in such settings requires additional protection efforts. For more information on staying safe, see Section B, for example the question ‘How can I stay safe and be protected while defending my rights?’.
  • Young women and girls are affected disproportionately, facing multiple forms of gender-based violence. Child-bearing risks are also higher, due to increased exposure to forced sex, increased risk taking and reduced availability of adolescent sexual and reproductive health services.
  • Young persons with disabilities, and girls and young women in particular, are more likely to be abandoned by their families, isolated in their homes, at risk of violence, and missing out on access to information and services that would strengthen their protection and resilience.
  • Displaced young people, being separated from their homes and sometimes their families, often face violence, abuse and insecurity, and become vulnerable to trafficking and detention.
  • Refugee adolescents and youth may have problems with legal recognition, lack of documentation, lack of freedom of movement, language barriers, discrimination, racism and xenophobia. Most refugees and displaced youth live in urban areas, and not in camps, which makes them less visible, often unreached with services, and particularly isolated.
  • LGBTIQ+ youth face a complex array of challenges and threats in their countries of origin, and asylum, including discrimination, prejudice, violence and difficulty accessing assistance, and can be particularly targeted in situations of conflict and insecurity. Where can I learn more?

Where can I learn more?

Additional information is available via:

Youth And Preventing Violent Extremism

What is the role of youth in preventing violent extremism?