New Delhi: More than half of Ukraine’s children have been displaced because of the war, the UN Children’s Fund has said in a statement.
UNICEF said 4.3 million children no longer lived in their own homes in the country and this number was more than half of the country’s estimated 7.5 million child population.
The statement read: “This includes more than 1.8 million children who have crossed into neighbouring countries as refugees and 2.5 million who are now internally displaced inside Ukraine.”
“The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War II,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“This is a grim milestone that could have lasting consequences for generations to come. Children’s safety, wellbeing and access to essential services are all under threat from non-stop violence.”
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 78 children have been killed, and 105 have been injured since the start of the war on 24 February.
“Yet these figures represent only those reports that the UN has been able to confirm, and the true toll is likely far higher,” the statement read.
UNICEF said fewer children were now being immunised for diseases like measles and polio.
“This could quickly lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, especially in overcrowded areas where people are sheltering from the violence,” it said.
“In just a few weeks, the war has been devastating for Ukraine’s children,” said Russell. “Children urgently need peace and protection. They need their rights upheld. UNICEF continues to appeal for an immediate cease-fire and for the protection of children from harm. Essential infrastructure on which children depend, including hospitals, schools and buildings sheltering civilians, must never come under attack.”
UNICEF is working with its partners to “reach children in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries with humanitarian assistance”.
To further support “millions of children and families who have fled Ukraine”, UNICEF and UNHCR have worked with government and civil society organizations, to create “Blue Dots,” one-stop safe spaces for children and women.
“Blue Dots provide key information to travelling families, help to identify unaccompanied and separated children and ensure their protection. They also provide a hub for essential services. Blue Dots have already been established in countries hosting Ukrainian children and women and are being scaled up over the coming days, including more than 20 in Poland.”
The UN body noted that there were significant challenges to their work in the country, with crumbling infrastructure and reduced access to basic services.