KYIV/NEW YORK, 21 May 2019 – Schoolchildren in conflict-hit eastern Ukraine have suffered a four-fold increase in attacks on schools during the first four months of the year, compared to the same period in 2018, traumatizing students and putting them at risk of injury or death, UNICEF said today.
Between January and April 2019, there were 12 attacks on schools, compared to three incidents during the same period last year. The alarming increase is reminiscent of the violence experienced by schoolchildren and teachers in 2017, when there were more than 40 attacks on education facilities.
“Schoolchildren are bearing long-lasting mental and physical scars of eastern Ukraine’s conflict,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Daily life at school is disrupted by shelling and shootings, forcing children to take cover in school basements and underground bomb shelters. In many cases, children have become too terrified to learn.”
Since the conflict began in early 2014, more than 750 educational facilities on both sides of the contact line have been damaged or destroyed due to hostilities. The proximity of military sites, bases and storage facilities as well as security checkpoints puts schoolchildren along both sides of the contact line in grave danger. In addition, mines and explosive remnants of war are threatening children’s safety and leading to trauma and emotional distress.
“Destroyed classrooms surrounded by sandbags to protect children from stray bullets are no place for a child to learn. All parties the conflict must protect schools and keep children safe,” Fore said.
UNICEF calls for an immediate end to the fighting and the protection of children at all times. UNICEF urges all governments, including Ukraine, to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, an intergovernmental political commitment to take concrete measures to protect students, educators and educational facilities from deliberate and indiscriminate attack during armed conflict.
Next week, the government of Spain will host the third International Conference on Safe Schools, an opportunity for states to highlight the progress they have made in implementing the Declaration.
UNICEF is working with partners across eastern Ukraine to provide much-needed counselling, psychosocial support, and information on the risks of mines to hundreds of thousands of children, youth and caregivers affected by the conflict. UNICEF is also providing support to education facilities so that repairs to damaged schools and kindergartens can be made, and education supplies such as educational kits, furniture and sport equipment can be replaced.
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