Children affected by conflict, displacement, or a disaster are vulnerable to separation, injury, abuse, exploitation, and psychosocial stress. Conflict and displacement break down the mechanisms which protect children – families may be torn apart, physically or emotionally, and medical and social services may be over burdened or cease to function entirely.
Families have the primary responsibility to protect and care for their children and governments have the responsibility to support the capacity of families and communities to protect vulnerable children and to provide essential services. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 16) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (articles 5–7, 9, 10, 18, 27), separated children have a legal right to be reunited with parents, relatives or guardians. Priority for care and protection services should go to children who are outside the care of their own parents or relatives, since they will be at most risk of harm. Humanitarian organisations can provide much needed support to governments, international organizations, and communities in the protection of vulnerable children in an emergency. Interventions may include: