Every day, children of all ages are exposed to a harsh world, with few or no protections from environmental hazards, ill health and injuries. They may be orphans, or living on the streets, begging or selling goods or even their bodies to survive. Many others are labour. There are also millions of children and adults with physical and mental disabilities who lack access to basic health, education and other social services, a denial of their rights that increases their vulnerability to environmental risks and hazards.
Approximately half of the worldwide refugee and internally displaced populations are children. At least 10 million people are estimated to be environmental refugees, more than half of them believed to be in sub-Saharan Africa. These are people displaced from their homes because of weather-related catastrophes, such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, degraded land, lack of natural resources to support livelihoods or armed conflict and land mines. In the past decade two million children have been killed in armed conflict. Children are hardest hit by all these catastrophes, the ensuing outbreaks of diseases and famines in refugee conditions, and the associated psychological traumas.