UNICEF on the situation of children in Ukraine and neighbouring countries

By United Nations Children's Fund

UNICEF on the situation of children in Ukraine and neighbouring countries

Escalating conflict means 500,000 children have been forced to flee their homes in just seven days. This is unprecedented in scale and speed. And if the violence, the explosive munitions don’t stop, many, many more will leave their country in a very short space of time. And the world fears many more will be killed.

The world must also remember those who cannot escape the bombardments rocking Ukraine. Tens of thousands of children are in child-care institutions; many are living with disabilities.

“And then there are those children who are sick. Children wounded in hospitals in Kyiv. I was at a children’s hospital here in Lviv. Babies in the ICU, children on drips. Their escape is so much more complicated and dangerous. By way of just one example – and there are hundreds – I spoke to a first-time mother, Valeria, and her two-month child, Emma. They had survived extensive attacks in Dnipro and then driven for ten hours to the relative safety of Lviv. Two-month-old Emma had coughed blood so they were at the hospital. Through tears Valeria told me “mentally I am fine. Physically I am not. I want Emma to have a future. I want to know that she will still have both parents, alive”, James Elder.

As fighting continues, thousands of children spent another freezing and terrifying night in bunkers, their homes under siege. Millions more risk being caught up in the violence as the fighting intensifies in and around the country’s major urban centers. Children have been killed. They have been injured. More are at grave risk of dying or being maimed when weapons and explosive munitions as used in populated areas. Hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed, and there are reports of schools, child-care institutions, and health centers sustaining heavy damage. Children must have peace.

Amid this, UNICEF sees a staggering population displacement. Humanitarian needs across the country are multiplying by the hour. Hundreds of thousands of people are without safe drinking water because of damage to water system infrastructure and many have been cut off from access to other essential services like healthcare. The country is running low on critical medical supplies and has had to halt urgent efforts to curb a polio outbreak.

UNICEF currently has its first convoy of trucks arriving in Ukraine. This will bring emergency medical supplies, together with water, sanitation, and hygiene kits; as well as medicine, midwifery kits, and surgical equipment. The organization’s support is broad – they have supplied oxygen cylinders to a hospital in Kyiv, and have safe tents (‘blue dots’) in border locations with a package of support – though so long as the conflict continues, demand will continue to outstrip supply.

“I would also like to speak to the Ukrainian volunteers and local communities, and of course those in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova, who have been relentless in their support, strength, and solidarity. Here in Ukraine, I have seen grandmothers providing hot meals in the snow; strangers offering displaced people a bed for the night; children baking cookies for those waiting for buses; offers to buy medicines for those who are sick, and waiting at a train station. Constant moments of big-heartedness are everywhere, ” James Elder.