A Syrian refugee crossing into Serbia.

Refugee Relief Guide: How To Help Refugees in 2019

UNICEF is heavily involved in assisting refugees as part of its longstanding commitment to helping vulnerable children all around the world. Here's a guide to UNICEF's work for refugees — and how you can help. 

For over 70 years, UNICEF has been putting children first, working to protect their rights and provide the assistance and services they need to survive and thrive all over the world. 


Across the globe, nearly 50 million children are on the move, uprooted by war, natural disasters and poverty, driven from their homes and forced to make difficult and dangerous journeys abroad. Millions of these children are out of school and don't know when they might return.

Saving and protecting migrant, refugee and internally-displaced children is a big part of UNICEF's mission. UNICEF works with local governments and other partners to provide essentials like food, water and medicine, and longer-term services and support in health care, education and other areas that are critical for kids to survive and thrive.

Young Syrian refugees living in Jordan wearing warm winter clothing provided by UNICEF.

Tawaseef, 5 (left), and Sita, 4, Syrian refugees living with their families in informal tent settlements in Jordan, wear warm hats, scarves, jackets and boots provided by UNICEF. Every year UNICEF distributes winter clothing, blankets and other supplies to help vulnerable children brace against snow storms and freezing temperatures. © UNICEF/UN0274601/Herwig

Here's a look at three major humanitarian deployments focused on refugees. 

How UNICEF is helping refugees

  • Syrian refugees: The Syrian refugee crisis that began in 2011 remains the largest displacement crisis in the world, with over 5.6 refugees living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — including 2.5 million children. UNICEF has Syrian refugee assistance programs in all five countries — in health, nutrition and education — and works to help strengthen local support systems and mitigate the economic impact in areas that have struggled to absorb the influx. UNICEF also has a major humanitarian deployment inside Syria to help displaced children who continue to struggle to stay healthy and safe and whose futures remain at risk. 
  • Rohingya refugees: Since the Rohingya refugee crisis began in August 2017, UNICEF has been on the ground, working with partners in refugee settlements in Bangladesh to deliver medicine and clean water, improve sanitation and create child-friendly spaces where kids can learn and play. As of February 2019, there were 155,000 children ages 4-14 benefiting from UNICEF-supported learning programs. UNICEF is also providing education support to children from the host community of Cox's Bazar, one of the Bangladesh's poorest districts. 

Girls play volleyball at a UNICEF-supported Child-Friendly Space in the Bidi Bidi settlement in Uganda for refugees from South Sudan.

Refugees from South Sudan play volleyball at a UNICEF Child-Friendly Space in Uganda's Bidi Bidi settlement. UNICEF supports sport and other recreational programs as one way to help kids recover from trauma. © UNICEF/UN068527/Oatway

UNICEF relies on donors and other supporters to help fund these and other programs assisting refugee children worldwide. But there are other ways supporters can help.

How you can help refugees

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore visits with Rohingya refugee children outside a learning center in the Kutupalong-Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore visits with Rohingya refugee children outside a learning center in the Kutupalong-Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. © UNICEF/UN0284208/LeMoyne

Learn more about UNICEF's humanitarian action for refugee children and others impacted by emergencies. 

Help UNICEF continue to provide emergency assistance and long-term support and protection to child refugees around the world. Every contribution counts.


Top photo: A young boy fleeing Syria makes his way into Serbia. ©UNICEF/UN063127Georgiev