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The health of vulnerable children and adolescents

  • Background and Aims

    Children deprived of liberty are an invisible and largely forgotten group. The number of children deprived of liberty around the world is unknown, and the circumstances surrounding their detention are poorly understood. However, a large number of children are placed in inhumane conditions and in adult facilities, where they may be at risk of violence and sexual assault, acts of torture, and cruel or degrading treatment or punishment. Nonetheless, the physical and mental health of children deprived of liberty, and the impacts of deprivation of liberty on their health and development, have never been the subject of systematic inquiry at the global level.

    Lead by Independent Expert Manfred Nowak, UN Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty was developed to collect data about the situation of children deprived of liberty, assess implementation of applicable international laws and standards, identify good practices and formulate recommendations for action at national, regional and international level. Following consultation with stakeholders and with research leaders, it was determined that health should be included in the Global Study as a cross-cutting theme. Professor Stuart Kinner was invited to serve as the focal point for health in the Global Study.

    This project involved a series of rapid reviews the health status of children and adolescents deprived of liberty, in 4 of the 5 settings considered in the Global Study.

    The Study included five thematic clusters, each associated with a settings-based research working group:

    1. Criminal justice / juvenile justice / administrative detention;*
    2. Migration / asylum seeking;
    3. Children in detention with their parents;
    4. Protection / associated with disability, health or substance abuse;
    5. Association with armed groups and/or national security.

    *This setting is already the subject of a comprehensive systematic review being prepared by Prof Kinner.


    Prof Manfred Nowak, University of Vienna

    Prof Nathan Hughes, University of Sheffield

    A/Prof Huw Williams, University of Exeter

    Georges Younes, University of Vienna

    Manu Krishan, University of Vienna


    Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

    Key papers

    Kinner SA, Hughes N, Borschmann R, Southalan L, Clasby B, Janca E, et al. The health of children deprived of liberty: a human rights issue. Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2020;4(1):6-7. Full Text

    Kinner SA, Borschmann R, Willoughby M, Hughes N, Southalan L, Clasby B, et al. Impacts on health of children deprived of liberty. In: Nowak M, editor. The United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. Geneva: United Nations; 2019. Full text

    Key contact

    Chief investigator, Professor Stuart Kinner.