According to UNICEF, 1 million children in eastern Ukraine, nearly double the number this time last year, are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
The erratic conflict in eastern Ukraine is now entering its fourth year, and because of the continued fighting and steadily deteriorating of life in the region, an additional 420,000 girls and boys are now hit by the consequences. This comes as around 1.7 million people in the area have been domestically displaced, and many families have lost all their income, any social benefits, and access to health care, while the price of living has piercingly risen.
Daily, there are hundreds of ceasefire violations that put children’s physical and mental well-being in jeopardy, especially for around 200,000 children living within 15 kilometers on each side of the ‘contact line’ in eastern Ukraine, which divides government and non-government controlled areas where the most ferocious and dangerous of fights are happening. Around 19,000 children in this zone face perils such as landmines and unexploded devices, while 12,000 girls and boys live in communities that are heavily shelled more than once every month. 1 in 5 schools in eastern Ukraine have been damaged or completely obliterated. Severe psychological distress has been reported among children, such as “nightmares, aggression, social withdrawal and panic triggered by loud noises”.
“This is an invisible emergency – a crisis most of the world has forgotten”, Giovanna Barberis, the UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, has stated, adding that children in the region have been living in “constant threat of unpredictable fighting and shelling for the past three years. (…) Their access to basic commodities like heat and water had been cut off”.
“After three horrific years, children in eastern Ukraine urgently need lasting peace, so that their unnecessary suffering ends” Barberis affirmed, while UNICEF once again is calling for all sides involved in the conflict to immediately recommit to the ceasefire order that was signed in Minsk in 2015. The international humanitarian not only has, but needs to be respected, which includes allowing completely unrestricted access to humanitarian aid.
UNICEF is reported to appeal for $31.3 million to provide both health and nutrition support, as well as education, clean water, hygiene and sanitation. The money is also meant to go to children and families that have been hit by the conflict. Until now, only around 10% of the appeal has been funded.
In 2016, UNICEF has provided 207,000 children and caregivers with psychosocial support, reached 500,000 children and their families with mine risk education and delivered warm clothing to 10,000 children and their families in poor communities closer to the contact line. The UN programme has also delivered clean drinking water and vital hygiene and sanitation infrastructure to 2.5 million people, rehabilitated 50,000 schools while delivering education materials to 150,000 children, and helped deliver 29,000 babies safely with midwifery kits.
Despite UNICEF’s extensive efforts, the situation for children (and not only) in eastern Ukraine is still crumbling.