- At least 78 child deaths in just one month of Ukraine conflict
- One in five Ukrainian children is now living as a refugee
- Refugee numbers more than 3.5 million, internally displaced 6.5 million
- Humanitarian community must prioritise the prevention of and response to sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable children
SIRET (March 24, 2022) — As the Ukraine conflict reaches its one-month mark, international aid agency World Vision warns that children are bearing the brunt, as they are killed, forced to flee their homes and are at high risk of trafficking and abuse.
The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has estimated child fatalities to be 75 and 99 children injured, however it also added that “actual figures are considerably higher” due to the delays in getting information from areas of “intense hostilities.” This includes areas such as Mariupol, Volnovakha (Donetsk region), Izium (Kharkiv region), Sievierodonetsk and Rubizhne (Luhansk region), and Trostianets (Sumy region), where there are reports of “numerous civilian casualties”.
World Vision’s Regional Leader for Middle East and Eastern Europe Eleanor Monbiot, OBE, said the reports of child fatalities were heart-breaking. “The death of any child is a tragedy, but the death of at least 78 children in Ukraine after just one month of fighting is devastating,” Monbiot said. “Each of those children had a life and future stolen from them. Each one leaves behind them a broken family mourning the loss of a precious child, all while trying to cope with the fear of shelling and the challenge of displacement.”
The reports of child fatalities come as Ukrainian government officials this week claimed that 1,500 residential buildings, 202 schools and 34 hospitals had been shelled across the country. Media outlets also reported that residential buildings on the outskirts of Odesa had been subjected to shelling. "
Ms. Monbiot said civilians should never be a target and condemned the targeting of any civilian infrastructure. “We condemn any violence targeting civilians, homes, schools and health facilities, and we call on all parties to the conflict to adhere to their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law and International Law.”
“While this conflict has already taken a severe toll on civilians and civilian infrastructure, it is still not too late for peace. World Vision joins the calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities Civilians must be able to safely evacuate if they wish to, and without discrimination. Humanitarian agencies must be able to access all those in need wherever they are and deliver needed assistance.”
Refugee numbers pass 3.5 million: One in five Ukrainian children now refugees
As well as these devastating fatalities, an unprecedented one in five Ukrainian children has become a refugee within the space of one month. Based on latest estimates that 1.5 million children out of a total population of 7.5 million Ukrainian children had crossed international borders to seek safety, 20 percent, or one in five has become a refugee since the conflict began on February 24.
Monbiot said the high number of refugee children has sparked huge concerns over the potential for trafficking in border areas.
World Vision staff reported seeing many unaccompanied children at the Poland-Ukraine border, Monbiot said.
“Our child protection staff have witnessed an overwhelming number of displaced children and young people, some of them deeply traumatised, desperately hungry and profoundly worried about their parents and relatives still in Ukraine,” she said. “Travelling alone puts them at heightened risk of abuse, violence, and exploitation, including trafficking.
“I am extremely worried about the risks these children face, fleeing to what they believe is a safe place, only to end up victims of sexual abuse or trafficking. This crisis is bad enough without another crisis emerging from within it.”
“Uprooted children, especially those travelling unaccompanied or having been separated from their families during the journey, are at heightened risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Governments and the humanitarian community must urgently establish mechanisms to identify and register the most vulnerable arriving children, in order to reduce the very real protection risks they face, including trafficking, and to begin to meet their immediate and long-term needs.”
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Note to Editor
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