"As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education – the great equalizer – more than ever."
– United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres
"These children are like children everywhere – they dream of becoming a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer. The difference is that most of them are forcibly displaced and struggling simply to stay safe and survive. With the right tools and the right kind of support, we can help them realise their dreams."
– United Nations Deputy Secretary-General
Amina J. Mohamed
"These photographs highlight the crucial role of education for children in humanitarian crises. They show that even in the world’s most desperate situations, children have hope, strength and determination to bring about change. It is our job to protect and support them. And for that, global solidarity has never been more important."
– United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency response Coordinator
One person in 18 is currently caught up in a humanitarian crisis. These crises can be caused by conflict, natural disasters or, as is the case right now, a global pandemic. Around the world, more than 258 million people need humanitarian assistance just to survive.
This exhibit documents the hopes and dreams of children trapped in crises. All aged between 6 and 18 years old, the youth featured here have dressed up to show us who they want to be when they grow up, using costumes and props from their immediate surroundings. By tapping into each child’s vision for the future, photographer Vincent Tremeau gives us a unique glimpse into their current circumstances and challenges.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
The crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian emergencies. Humanitarian need is largely driven by armed conflict, poverty and natural disasters, such as floods. There are more than 100 different armed factions and militia groups in the country.
An estimated 25.6 million Congolese are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in 2020. They face persistent human rights violations, displacement, severe food insecurity, chronic malnutrition and disease outbreaks such as cholera, measles and Ebola. The levels of conflict-related sexual violence are alarming.
When people flee violence in search for safety they often end up in isolated locations — losing access to essential goods and services such as health care, safe water and sanitation, and education.
A camp for internally displaced people in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Displacement and violence have plagued the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in this region. Some families have been displaced more than ten times in the past decade only. [Photo OCHA/Giles Clarke]
The Rohingya Crisis
Extreme violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya across the border into Cox’s Bazar in late 2017, creating the largest refugee camp on the planet. Around 860,000 Rohingya now live there as refugees. The Government and humanitarian agencies are providing assistance to refugees and the host communities who have generously helped support people in direst need. Preventing COVID-19 amid the highly dense conditions adds further layers of challenge to daily life.
Most refugees witnessed or endured unspeakable horrors in Myanmar. Entire villages were burned to the ground, families were separated and killed, and women and girls were raped. The root causes of their plight in Myanmar have yet to be addressed and their future is uncertain. This generates considerable anxiety and distress on top of the challenging conditions in which they live.
An estimated 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar. Around 130,000 of them are displaced in central Rakhine, and while most are confined to camps, all of them face restrictions on their freedom of movement and access to services. The ongoing conflict in Rakhine State continues to put them and other civilians at risk and hampers their access to humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya families flee to seek refuge in and around Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Most of them crossed from their villages in Myanmar by foot and boat, and their journeys lasted several days or weeks. [Photo OCHA/David Dare Parker]
Lake Chad Basin
Neglected and affected by climate change and conflict, millions of people are fighting a daily battle to survive in the Lake Chad Basin, an area which covers north-eastern Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
The brutal conflict has uprooted about 2.8 million people, and left nearly 5.2 million people severely food insecure. Malnutrition in conflict-affected areas risks deteriorating fast. Five hundred thousand children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. In addition, there have been mass kidnappings of children, especially girls, as well as sexual violence, forced recruitment of children and other violations of human rights.
The violence and fighting have also destroyed food crops, economies and infrastructure. Half a million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
Emergency relief is vital to saving lives and avoiding famine in the region. However, the security situation makes it difficult to access everyone who needs help. It is estimated that in north-eastern Nigeria alone, hundreds of thousands of people are cut off from outside assistance. According to the revised humanitarian response plans in the three countries, 12.5 million people in the affected regions now need urgent assistance - 1.7 million more than at the beginning of the year.
Children are playing in a camp for internally displaced people in Rann, north-east Nigeria. About 50,000 people live here, and are unable to return to their homes due to violence and insecurity. Pictured here Serah, 7, one of the IDPs living in Rann, Borno State, Nigeria. [Photo OCHA/Yasmina Guerda]
In rural Nepal, poverty and gender inequality mean that girls are often married off before their 18th birthdays. More than 48 per cent of adult women report that they were married before reaching age 18.
Nepal is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, particularly earthquakes and floods. The country’s mountainous terrain poses significant logistical challenges to access and deliver relief to remote areas.
Twenty-six year old Nirmala lives with her in-laws and 3 year old daughter in a temporary shelter that was constructed after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Her house was completely damaged during the earthquake and therefore, there are unable to return home. Nirmala and her in-laws work in the field to make a living, while her husband has gone abroad to earn money and support his family. [Photo OCHA/Anthony Burke]
Sierra Leone was the country hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak, with more than 14,000 cases, over 3,500 deaths and 4,000 survivors.
The first case was detected in Guinea in March 2014. The virus then spread to neighbouring countries, including Sierra Leone.
More than 10,000 people in West Africa died of Ebola during the latest epidemic.
A boy on his way to school in Moyamba Junction, Sierra Leone. [Photo/Vincent Tremeau]
Almost three years after Iraq’s military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ended, social, ethnic and sectarian tensions persist. Humanitarian partners are operating in increasingly unstable political and security contexts.
Approximately 1.4 million people remain internally displaced in Iraq, and the country also hosts over 250,000 Syrian refugees. Over half of them have been displaced for more than four years. Insecurity, lack of work opportunities, and destroyed or damaged housing and infrastructure hamper people’s ability to return home. Transitioning this population towards durable solutions remains at the top of the United Nations priorities.
As the Syria crisis nears its tenth year, the scale, severity and complexity of humanitarian needs remain extensive. More than 11 million people are in need, including 9.3 million people who are food insecure. The crisis created more than 6.7 million refugees and displaced a further 6.7 million Syrians inside their own country. Armed conflict in parts of Syria continues to cause humanitarian suffering, but the situation has been further exacerbated by the ongoing economic crisis and COVID-19.
The price for basic food items has increased by nearly 250 per cent in the last year. Eight in 10 people in Syria live below the poverty line. Families face hard choices to either put food on the table or a roof over their heads, or keep their children warm or send them to school.
Through family and community support structures, humanitarian non-governmental organizations and State institutions, Syrians themselves continue to be the main responders to the crisis. Complementing their efforts, humanitarian organizations have mounted one of the largest responses in the world.
15 September 2014, Dahuk, Iraq: Now, winter is fast approaching, threatening to compound the already dire situation. It’s estimated that 600,000 people are in immediate need of winterization assistance, including thermal blankets, heaters and fuel. [Photo OCHA/Iason Athanasiadis]
The Central Sahel is the epicentre of one of the world's fastest-growing humanitarian crises.
More than 13 million people, including 7 million children, require urgent humanitarian assistance in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – five million more than estimated at the beginning of the year 2020.
In less than two years, violence and insecurity have pushed 7.4 million people in Central Sahel to acute hunger levels – three times the number one year ago – and 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes by violence, a twenty-fold increase in two years.
Gender-based violence has spiked, millions of children are out of school, and basic health and social services are lacking. Lockdowns and other COVID-19 prevention measures have pushed an additional 6 million people in the region into extreme poverty.
Last year 81 aid workers were wounded, kidnapped or killed in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, according to the Aid Worker Security Database. In 2019 the number of attacks on aid workers in Mali was double the number in 2018.
Women cross the road next to a camp for internally displaced persons in Diffa, south-east Niger. Violence in neighbouring Nigeria has forced millions of people to flee their homes. [Photo/Vincent Tremeau]
Central African Republic
The crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the world’s worst crises, yet it remains largely ignored. Over half of the population desperately needs humanitarian assistance, and one in four Central Africans is displaced, either inside or outside the country.
The continued rise of armed groups’ activities, intercommunal conflict and violent confrontations over the control of natural resources have further eroded the population’s capacity to sustain multiple shocks.
As of September 2020, almost 641,000 people are internally displaced – an 8 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2019 – and COVID-19 has inflicted a devastating blow to the economic sector. The closure of schools exposed hundreds of thousands of children to additional risks of recruitment into armed groups and the worst forms of labour, notably in mines. One case of gender-based violence is recorded every hour, and the number of recorded cases doubled in the capital, Bangui. Food insecurity and malnutrition have spread to the urban centre. Only one in three Central Africans has access to safe and drinkable water and sanitation facilities.
CAR is also one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarian workers, with more than one incident against humanitarian workers recorded each day.
Bangui, Central African Republic - 27 February 2014. A displaced child at the M'Poko Air Force base where thousands of families have taken shelter fleeing violence that has largely split communities along religious lines. [Photo OCHA/Phil Moore]
Photography by Vincent Tremeau presented by UNOCHA
Vincent Tremeau, born in 1984, is a French photographer based in Dakar, Senegal. After graduating in Law from the University of Toulouse, he undertook several missions as a humanitarian worker in crisis-affected countries where his interest in photography was stimulated by its power as a tool to testify and raise awareness of people’s conditions in times of turmoil. From 2014, Tremeau pursued his commitment as an independent photographer, and started documenting several humanitarian crises across Africa, Asia, and South America. Witnessing the children’s difficulties in accessing education, Tremeau started the "One Day, I Will" project on youth in November 2014. Combining an artistic approach with a documentary purpose, Tremeau portrays the hopes and perspectives of the future generation in Africa.