War in Ukraine: Support for children and families
The war has been devastating for families. UNICEF and partners are on the ground providing support for those in need.
The children and families of Ukraine have endured more than a year of escalating violence, trauma, destruction and displacement. Children continue to be killed, wounded and deeply traumatized by violence that has sparked displacement on a scale and speed not seen since World War II. Schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure on which they depend continue to be damaged or destroyed. Families have been separated and lives torn apart.
UNICEF was in Ukraine before the war escalated, and in the months since has stayed and delivered. We stand with the children of Ukraine and will continue working with partners to support them through the war and beyond.
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>>> What’s happening in Ukraine
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What’s happening in Ukraine?
Ukraine’s children are paying an extraordinary price in lives lost and upended. The war has resulted in death, injuries and the mass displacement of more than 5 million people from the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine to the west. More than 8 million people have taken refuge in neighbouring countries. Children are being robbed of their childhood, of time with friends and family, of a peaceful life. They bear invisible scars and trauma that may take a lifetime to heal.
The conflict has caused significant damage to vital infrastructure, severely impacting access to electricity, heating, water and telecommunications. Families’ incomes and access to services have been decimated. Hundreds of pre-school, primary and secondary schools have been damaged or destroyed by bombing and shelling, disrupting the education of Ukraine’s children, with potentially lifelong consequences. The upheaval of war has created a particular tenuous situation for displaced children, those living in institutions, and children with disabilities.
Schools and other educational facilities are not only places of learning – they also provide a crucial sense of structure and safety for children. Yet displacement and the destruction of schools have left millions of children accessing learning online or through a combination of online and face-to-face classes. The damage to electricity and other energy infrastructure is only complicating families’ ability to access even virtual classes.
At the start of the war and throughout the summer, many families who fled Ukraine opted for online learning instead of attending local schools, hoping to return home quickly. But more than a year later, many Ukrainian refugee children still aren’t enrolled in host country education systems. The integration of Ukrainian refugee children into national education systems must be prioritized across education levels, especially for early childhood education and primary education – with qualified teachers, learning materials and spaces to support face-to-face learning, development, and well-being.
The war in Ukraine is robbing children of stability, safety, school, friends, family, a home and hopes for the future. The mental wounds of the war could affect children well into adulthood. To avert a generation of children scarred by the conflict, their mental health and psychosocial needs must be prioritised. This should include age-appropriate actions to provide nurturing care, build resilience, and especially for older children and adolescents, give them opportunities to voice their concerns and realize their own agency.
Support must also be provided to parents and caregivers to help them deal with the distressing effects the war and displacement have had on them. This will ultimately equip them to also better support their children’s mental well-being.
Impact beyond Ukraine
The war has sparked displacement on a scale and speed not seen since World War II – with far-reaching impact across the region and beyond. More than 8 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded across Europe, the majority of them women and children.
UNICEF welcomes the international solidarity shown to Ukraine’s children and to those across the globe negatively impacted by the war. But as the conflict and displacement continues, support is still needed across the region to ensure refugee children are not left out.
How is UNICEF helping children and families?
UNICEF was in Ukraine before the war broke out, and throughout the past year has stayed and delivered. In countries hosting refugees, UNICEF works with national and local authorities, as well as civil society organizations, to deliver emergency assistance and support services to families fleeing war in Ukraine.
Inside Ukraine, this includes:
Providing learning supplies to children and engaging children in formal and non-formal education.
Reaching children and caregivers with mental health and psychosocial support including through gender-based violence response services.
Enabling access to safe water for people living in areas where networks have been damaged or destroyed, and providing sanitation and hygiene supplies.
Enabled people to access healthcare with supplies distributed in war-affected areas.
Reaching households inside Ukraine with multi-purpose cash assistance.
In neighbouring countries, UNICEF support includes:
Working with local governments and refugee-hosting municipalities to provide access to formal and non-formal education for refugee children.
Enabling access to safe water for drinking and domestic needs.
Supporting ministries of health in neighbouring countries to provide access to primary health services to refugee women and children.
Reaching households with cash transfers.
What UNICEF is calling for
1) Principled and unimpeded humanitarian access.
2) An end to attacks on children and the infrastructure they rely on, including schools, hospitals and critical water and food infrastructure.
3) The avoidance of the use of schools or other facilities in this conflict.
4) Stopping the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which are directly responsible for killing and maiming hundreds of children.
UNICEF will engage as and where support is needed to reach affected populations, including children.
UNICEF has been in Ukraine for many years and has maintained a principled humanitarian approach in past instances of violence and conflict, to ensure continued access to vulnerable populations. Since the start of this war, UNICEF together with UN partners, has continued to advocate for the respect of humanitarian principles, international humanitarian law, and human rights law, including to end and prevent grave violations against children.
Above all, UNICEF will continue to advocate for an end to hostilities.
Children need sustained peace to regain their childhoods, return to normalcy and begin to heal and recover.