IOM, UNICEF and Save the Children Host Regional Workshop on Protecting Children on the Move

IOM Ethiopia Chief of Mission gives remarks during the Regional Workshop on Protecting Children on the Move. Photo credit: Adam Sahilu/IOM 2024

Addis Ababa – The International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNICEF, and Save the Children organized a regional dialogue to strengthen cross-border collaboration for managing the safe return and reintegration of migrant children in their communities.  

The dialogue, which took place from 27-29 February, brought together key stakeholders from countries where children originate, transit, and ultimately reach, including government officials, NGOs, and international agencies involved in providing vital protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants. 

The meeting also discussed collaboration by the East and Horn of Africa countries to manage migrant children’s cross-border cases, including identifying needs, conducting assessments, providing care, coordinating safe return to Ethiopia and ensuring successful reunification with families and reintegration into their communities. 

The dialogue also emphasized the importance of commitments to incorporate migrant children in child protection and migration policies. This entails putting in place child-sensitive referral systems, boosting cross-border collaboration, and improving information exchange to ensure migrant children's safety, and access to essential support services regardless of their migration status. 

"Migrant children deserve safe journeys and dignified returns. This dialogue unites key players to build vital cross-border collaboration, ensuring their protection and reintegration into their communities," said Abibatou Wane, Chief of Mission of IOM Ethiopia.

“Children should grow up in a safe and supportive environment with their families protected from violence. Preventing the underlying push factors of unsafe migration including poverty, conflict, and lack of access to services requires comprehensive strategies,” said Jolanda Van Westering, Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF. “By creating sustainable solutions for the well-being of all children, we can help prevent the need for dangerous migration.”

Sharing experiences of the successful work undertaken within this context in the Southern African region, Save the Children Ethiopia’s Country Director, Xavier Joubert also called for partners to continue strengthening collaboration to jointly resource and design child-centred migration programming. “Together we must guarantee that the rights of children on the move, like all children, are truly protected, respected, and fulfilled everywhere,” said Mr Joubert.

Ethiopia faces a growing crisis of irregular migration, especially among children. Driven by harsh realities like poverty, famine, conflict, high levels of youth unemployment, and the impact of climate change, many young Ethiopians are forced to leave their homes in search of a better life.

According to Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, Migrants Needs Overview 2024, the data from November 2023 indicates that around 285,000 Ethiopians are traveling by land over the popular Eastern migration route, which connects the Horn of Africa, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia with the goal of reaching Saudi Arabia or other Gulf States. 

Notably, during the same time frame, the number of girls traveling alone rose from 1,700 to 4,000, with the 24-partner Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa to Yemen and Southern Africa anticipating that this pattern will hold through 2024. 

In addition, according to the Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, Migrants Needs Overview 2024, the statistics in 2021 and 2022 show an alarming trend in the number of unaccompanied and separated children traveling this route which more than doubled, from 7,300 to 14,900.

The regional dialogue aims to continue showcasing cross-border initiatives on child protection and building on their achievements, including the partnership between Ethiopia and Djibouti and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) draft standard operating procedures on protecting children on the move.

For more information, please contact: Adam Sahilu, Multimedia Consultant, IOM Ethiopia, email:; Wossen Mulatu, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Ethiopia, email: ; Edda Zekarias (Ms.), Advocacy, Campaigns, Communications and Media Director, Save the Children Ethiopia, email:

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