‘The children of Ukraine need peace now’

Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Afshan Khan, visited Ukraine

Angela Travis
Afshan Khan
UNICEF Ukraine/2022/ Oleksiy Filippov
22 June 2022

“The children of Ukraine need peace now”, said Afshan Khan, Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, at the end of her visit to Ukraine last week. As the war approaches its fourth month, the situation of children in the country remains dire, with two out of three children displaced, and on average at least two children being killed every day.

The Regional Director saw the devastation in two Kyiv suburbs - areas that came under severe shelling and witnessed fierce fighting over four weeks in March and April 2022. Irpin Secondary School No.3, close to Kyiv, came under repeated shelling during the period of fighting. The roof caught fire, and the acrid smell of smoke still hangs in the air. The school cannot receive pupils again until it is made safe.

“Schools have been damaged or destroyed across the country. At UNICEF, we know that returning to regular learning is an important way for children to recover from the trauma they have experienced," said Afshan. "We are working with the Ministry of Education and other partners to get all children back to learning in a safe environment by the start of the new school year. This demands an end to hostilities for all children in the country and war-affected areas."

Afshan Khan visits Ukraine
UNICEF Ukraine/2022/ Oleksiy Filippov
UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Afshan Khan visit a Spilno (Together) Spot in Bucha, an area that came under heavy shelling and fighting. The integrated service point for children provides play and social activities, medical services and referrals for children if needed. Staff estimated that half of children attending required psychosocial support of some kind.

Those living in the Kyiv suburbs are slowly returning to the streets, but many still revisit the horrors whenever they see the destroyed buildings and infrastructure around them. 

In response, UNICEF and partners have established a ‘Spilno’ (lit. togetherness) spot for children and families in the centre of Bucha – another suburb that saw heaving fighting and shelling in March. The spot provides a fun and safe space for children, with play and art therapy sessions, as well as a place for parents to get respite and comfort by exchanging shared experiences: they can process their feelings, access health services and therapeutic support and ultimately gain some control over their lives, and so better support their children.

“UNICEF is supporting these spots across Ukraine, particularly where there are displaced families, so that children can quickly gain a sense of normality in their lives”, said Afshan after meeting children and staff at the centre.

“We know that the sooner they can regain a sense of routine, the quicker they can recover from the nightmares they have witnessed or experienced.”