World Refugee Day

Putting children first

SOS Children’s Villages CEO calls on authorities worldwide to respect the basic rights of displaced children


Drawing on its nearly 70 years of experience supporting at-risk children and families, SOS Children’s Villages is working to address the immediate and long-term needs of children in some of the world’s most pressing refugee emergencies.

The organisation’s refugee-related programmes focus on providing care for children, protecting their rights, and keeping families together in more than 20 countries and territories that host refugees or where instability and conflict cause mass displacement.

“Millions of people around the world have been forced to leave their homes to find shelter from war and political unrest,” says Norbert Meder, Chief Executive Officer of SOS Children’s Villages International. “Children account for at least half of refugees, and they are especially at risk of separation from their family and loved ones.

“Too often today, the political rhetoric about refugees is toxic and children are caught in the fray. But we cannot look the other way for the sake of short-term political expediency,” Mr Meder says. “Caring for children in need is an obligation even under international law that must never be open to negotiation.”

Keeping families together

SOS Children’s Villages provides quality alternative care for unaccompanied children, including supporting them in their transition to adulthood and helps families to stay together or reunite when this is in the best interest of the child. It also advocates for their rights under international law.

“As we mark World Refugee Day, SOS Children’s Villages calls on all governments to respect the fundamental rights of displaced children,” Mr Meder says. “Children are innocent and deserve protection from harm; they have a right to care, shelter, and education; and they should have the opportunity to grow up with their loved ones whenever possible. We must never forget that compassion, love and respect are essential to ensuring that these children have a better future.”

These photos illustrate just some of the work we do around the world to help children and families on the move.


Our five child friendly spaces provide care and protection for an estimated 300 Rohingya refugee children living at reception centres in the Cox's Bazar district. We also provide educational activities, ensure that the children are provided a balanced diet; and offer support in trauma healing and primary health care. Photo provided by SOS Children's Villages Bangladesh


An estimated 1.5 million Venezuelans left their country over the past year, many of them seeking refuge in neighbouring Colombia. Along with Brazil, another big host country, SOS Children’s Villages Colombia is preparing an emergency response for those arriving from Venezuela. “We see this is an opportunity to work on re-integration and support these families socially and legally, so that they have access to public services, and they can resume the care of their children,” explains Angela Maria Rosales, the National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Colombia. Photo provided by SOS Children's Villages Colombia


Syrians and Jordanians sit side-by-side in a classroom in eastern Amman. The programme offers literacy lessons for girls, sewing and embroidery classes for women, along with psychological and emotional support. The classes help facilitate the students’ transition to formal education and careers. Photo by Lydia Mantler      


Launched in 2017, our Bekaa Valley programme provides family support, supplementary education and training for children, as well as food and non-food items for at-risk host-community families and Syrian refugees. Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, more than one million people have - half of them children - fled to neighbouring Lebanon. Photo by Jens Honoré


Since 2015, we have helped thousands of children and families in Diffa who have been forced to flee their homes because of regional instability and violence in north-east Nigeria. We help refugees as well as at-risk families in host communities. Photo by Vincent Tremeau


Our Child Friendly Space at the Kara Tepe refugee reception centre on Lesvos island provides educational, recreational and sports activities, reaching children aged four to 14. Of the 1,200 refugees at Kara Tepe, at least half are children. We have helped refugee children and families on Lesvos, Greece’s main destination for those crossing the Mediterranean, since December 2015. Photo by Giorgos Moutafis


The bicycle is much more than a way to get around. With the help of SOS Children’s Villages, young refugees and Italians in Crotone are learning how to maintain and build bicycles through a programme designed to promote cooperation while also providing the children with career skills. Photo by Danilo Riolo


Three years after thousands of refugees started crossing the western Balkans, SOS Children’s Villages continues to support children and families who living at the Preševo refugee centre. Here, a family enjoys activities at our Child Friendly Space. Photo by Tania Thorngreen


Launched in 2014 following the outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine, our emergency programme helps children and families in the Luhansk area. We offer long-term comprehensive support for families at risk on both sides of the demarcation line. Photo by Katerina Ilievska.