Ukraine: the devastating effect of war on children

New York, June 14, 2022 – I spent the last week in Ukraine, where I met children and families affected by war, where I saw the importance of UNICEF’s humanitarian efforts, and where I met the authorities, my colleagues in the UN and partner organizations.

I was able to travel to Kiev, Irpin, Bucha, Zhytomyr and Lviv, and my time in the country gave me a clear overview of the enormous impact the war in Ukraine continues to have on children, both inside and outside the country. ; both in the region and around the world.

The numbers are staggering and can be repeated. Nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children are displaced – whether they are internally displaced or have crossed borders as refugees. Children forced to leave their homes, friends, toys and valuables, family members and face the insecurities of the future. This instability deprives children of their future – trauma and fear can have lasting effects on children’s physical and mental health.

According to the latest figures from our colleagues at OHCHR, 277 children were killed and 456 other wounded, mainly due to the use of explosives in built-up urban areas. This use of explosive weapons in populated areas and attacks on civilian infrastructure must stop. It kills and maims children and prevents them from returning to a normal life in the cities that are their home.

At least 256 attacks on health facilities and one in six UNICEF-supported “safe schools” in the eastern part of the country were damaged or destroyed.

More than a million people no longer have access to running water

We are increasingly concerned about the situation with access to drinking water, onewith at least 1.4 million people in the eastern part of the country without access to running water.

As these figures show, the war in Ukraine is a child rights crisis, and UNICEF is working to support children and families, no matter where they are in the country. This significant role for UNICEF in Ukraine is reflected in the recent agreement reached with the Government to extend UNICEF’s country program until the end of 2023, as part of the UN transition.

After more than three and a half months of war, UNICEF and its partners are taking stock of the humanitarian efforts made so far and directing the next period towards the areas most in need. We have been to Ukraine in 1997 and remained throughout the escalation of the conflict to provide support and protect the lives of children and families. To date, UNICEF has provided more than 2 million people with medical supplies and access to clean water. More than 600 000 children and caregivers benefited from psychosocial and mental health support and more than 180 000 children participated in formal and local learning programs.

We have partners on both sides of the border working to provide children with important information and life-saving supplies and services. We activated rapid response missions in the eastern part of the country close to the fighting, enabling us to help families in more than 100 shelters close to the front lines and in hard to reach places. But despite intensive efforts to ensure safe, rapid and unhindered humanitarian access, There are still significant challenges in the worst affected areas of the country and we continue to call for safe and unhindered access to reach children wherever they are.

In the middle and west of the country, where the situation right now is a little more stable, we are providing support and strengthening the services and local authorities that are already there, such as local authorities and NGOs. An example is “Spilno Child Spots” – places where parents and their children can turn to for support services, including therapy and psychosocial support, get supplies and information and have a chance to give their children a safe and normal play while sitting with other parents and receive short relief and peer support. I saw how important this support is at a Spilno center in Bucha, where the staff estimated that half of the participating children needed some form of psychosocial support.

Back to school for more than 2000 children are compromised by the conflict

In Irpin, I visited two schools damaged by the fighting, which brings the education of almost 2 000 children at the beginning of the school year in September. Although we do not have verified figures for the number of damaged schools in the country, it is likely that this number is in the thousands. Repair of schools is a priority for UNICEF and the government so that children can return to safe, mixed learning in September.

Thanks to the generous support of governments, businesses and individuals, we can continue this work across the country and region, including humanitarian cash transfers to extremely vulnerable families.

Ultimately, no matter how important this work is, children need peace.

UNICEF continues to call for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and the protection of all children. Every day, this war continues, increasing the lasting and devastating impact on children, in Ukraine, in the region and around the world. »

Leave a Comment