Wednesday, July 6

Two out of three Ukrainian children have been displaced by war, something unheard of since World War II

The invasion of Ukraine turns 100 days old this Friday and UNICEF denounces “devastating consequences” for children “on a scale and speed not seen since World War II.” Since February 24, at least 262 children have been killed and 415 injured in the war.

The organization warns that 5.2 million children need humanitarian aid – three of them inside Ukraine and 2.2 in host countries. In total, nearly two out of three minors have been displaced by the fighting, says UNICEF.

Among them is eight-year-old Vika, who is from Avdiivka in the Donetsk region and has not known peace in her country. Located very close to the line of contact, the sound of war has been a constant in her life since 2014, when pro-Russian rebel forces in eastern Ukraine declared independence. At last, in September 2021, at the age of seven, he went to school for the first time. However, the outbreak of a new war forced him to leave classes in February.

Vika and her mother spent two months in the basement. “We were always in the basement. We couldn’t go out and the only option was to go to the door for a while and get some air. Everything was exploding. At any moment we could see each other under the rubble, ”says the girl in other statements collected by UNICEF.

Shortages came and it soon became impossible to survive in Avdiivka, so the family decided to flee. While waiting for the evacuation bus, a new attack took place. “We were so scared and literally crawled away from the bombs,” recalls her mother, Hanna. Now they live in a small town in the Cherkasy region, in the center of the country. “I guess some of my classmates in Avdiivka are still hiding in cellars and some have fled. I hope my school has not been destroyed,” says Vika.

Some children and young people have witnessed the attacks. Viacheslav, 18, is one of them. He used to live in Verkhnotoretske, a town in Donetsk, and now lives in the western part of the country. Viacheslav watched his mother die. “She died in my arms. The bomb fell close to us and when I opened my eyes I saw my mother lying on the ground. Her last words were ‘I’m fine’”, recalls the young man through tears in a testimony collected by UNICEF. “When I entered the house, they understood everything,” he adds, referring to his four little brothers.

attack on schools

At least 256 health facilities and one in six UNICEF-supported ‘safe schools’ in the east of the country are damaged or destroyed. “Hundreds of educational centers throughout Ukraine have also been damaged,” the organization denounces.

Two weeks ago, the Ukrainian military authorities published images of a destroyed Avdiivka school. “Russian forces bombed school with white phosphorus last night,” denounced Pavlo Kyrylenkodirector of the Donetsk regional military administration.

“June 1 is the International Day for the Protection of Children in Ukraine and throughout the region,” says UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Instead of marking the occasion, we solemnly approach the 100th day of a war that has shattered the lives of millions of children. Without an urgent ceasefire and a negotiated peace, children will continue to suffer.”

Polina, from Mariupol, is 11 years old. The hospital where she was born, the nursery she went to and the school where she studied have been destroyed. Now, after spending a month holed up in a basement, she is afraid of being alone in a room.

Polina, who fled with her family to the Vinnytsia region, remembers one of those days in the cellar: “I was downstairs and my mother and grandmother were upstairs. There was an explosion so loud it left me deaf. Everything fell off the ceiling and I started screaming. The other girls were also screaming and crying and there was one who was not able to calm down even when it was all over.”