A demonstration organized by the Ukrainian Association in Finland to honour the children killed amid the Russian invasion  (Lehtikuva)

By Robin Gomes

Apr 16 2022

Ending a 10-day visit to Ukraine last week, UNICEF’s Emergency Programme Director, Manuel Fontaine, on Monday briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the country.

“Six weeks on and the war continues to be a nightmare for Ukraine’s children – both for those who have fled and for those who remain inside the country. Six weeks on and now, nearly 3 million children in Ukraine need humanitarian assistance.” 

Displacement

Manuel Fontaine, the Emergency Programme Director of the United Nations children’ fund, UNICEF, briefed the UN Security Council on Monday after a 10-day visit to Ukraine last week.

He pointed out that in just six weeks, nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s 7.5 million children have been displaced.

“They have been forced to leave everything behind: Their homes, their schools, and often, their family members.”

More than 4.5 million people, over 90 percent of whom are women and children, have crossed into neighbouring countries as refugees.  The UN’s International Organization for IOM estimates that 7.1 million people are now internally displaced and more than 50 percent of displaced households include children.

The UN official said that in his 31 years as a humanitarian, he has rarely seen so much damage caused in such a short span.

Violence and death

“Children are being killed and injured because of the violence around them.” As of April 10, the UN has verified that 142 children have been killed and 229 injured but Fontaine said these numbers are likely to be much higher given the scale of attacks.

He said the situation is worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson in the south, which have been besieged by Russian forces where children and their families have spent weeks without running water, sanitation or a regular supply of food.

The mayor of Mariupol estimates more than 10,000 civilians may have died since the February 24 Russian invasion. Mayor Vadym Boychenko told the Associated on Monday that corpses were “carpeted through the streets of our city” and that the death toll could be more than 20,000.

Civilian structures attacked

Some 3.2 million children are estimated to have remained back in their homes.  Nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food, Fontaine said. Attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages have left an estimated 1.4 million people in the country without access to water.

Fontaine lamented that children have been hit in the very places where they should be safest – their homes, emergency shelters, and even hospitals.  Explosive weapons continue to be used to attack populated urban areas. Homes, schools, hospitals, water systems, power plants, and places where civilians seek shelter continue to come under attack. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there have been more than 100 attacks on health care facilities.

Grave rights violations

“The reports of grave violations and other serious rights violations against children are devastating,” the UNICEF official said, adding, “children should never be the victims of conflict and must be protected by all parties in accordance with applicable international law”.

Essential services for children such as health care, protection, water, sanitation and education have been severely curtailed. 

The scale and scope of the need for services will only grow as the war drags on and fighting intensifies in other areas, Fontaine said, stressing, “the war has to end”.  He told the Security Council that the humanitarian organizations will do what they can but “unless the war stops, we won’t be solving the problems”.  

“It is time to end this war. Ukraine’s children cannot afford to wait.” -Vatican News