According to UNICEF, at least 289 boys and girls died every week while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe in the last 6 months.
The number, the agency said, has doubled compared to the same period in 2022.
Vera Knaus, the agency’s Global Lead on Migration and Displacement, told journalists attending the biweekly UN humanitarian briefing in Geneva said this figure is equivalent to about 11 children dying each week, far beyond what is reported by the media.
“We cannot continue to ignore what is happening – stand by silently when nearly 300 children – an entire plane full of children – are dying in the waters between Europe and Africa in just six months,” she said.
However, the agency warned that the true number of child casualties is likely to be higher as many shipwrecks in the Central Mediterranean leave no survivors or go unrecorded.
Since 2018, UNICEF estimates around 1,500 children have died or gone missing while attempting the Central Mediterranean Sea crossing.
UNICEF estimates 11,600 children – an average of 428 children a week – arrived on the shores of Italy from North Africa, mostly from Tunisia and Libya since January 2023. This is a two-fold increase compared to the same period in 2022, despite the grave risks involved for children.
UNICEF says in the first three months of 2023, 3,300 children – 71 percent of all children arriving to Europe via this route – were recorded as unaccompanied or separated from parents or legal guardians, putting them at a greater risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Girls travelling alone are especially likely to experience violence before, during and after their journeys.
Apart from this grave danger at sea, children are facing other threats or experiences of violence, lack of educational or future opportunities, raids and immigration detention or separation from family.