War in Ukraine: Support for children and families
The war has been devastating for Ukraine’s families. UNICEF and partners are on the ground providing support for those in need.
The children and families of Ukraine have endured months of escalating devastation and displacement. Children continue to be killed, wounded and deeply traumatized by the violence all around them. 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 broke out, and in the weeks and 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. Read about UNICEF’s Ukraine and Refugee Response 2023 Appeal
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What’s happening in Ukraine?
Millions of children are in need of humanitarian assistance as they continue to suffer the deadly consequences of a brutal war not of their making. 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. By 24 January, around 7.9 million individual refugees from Ukraine had been recorded across Europe, while millions more people had been internally displaced in Ukraine.
The large-scale displacements being seen could have lasting consequences for generations to come. Children fleeing war in Ukraine are at heightened risk of human trafficking and exploitation. Attacks using explosive weapons in populated urban areas have inflicted civilian casualties, including children, and considerable damage to essential infrastructure and services. Continuing attacks on critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine have left almost every child in Ukraine – nearly seven million children – without sustained access to electricity, heating and water, putting them at increased risk as temperatures continue to drop and winter deepens.
The war has also disrupted education for more than five million children, compounding the two years of lost learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The continued use of explosive weapons has meant that thousands of schools, pre-schools or other education facilities across the country have been damaged or destroyed. At the same time, many parents and caregivers are reluctant to send children to school due to safety concerns.
After eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine and the escalation in violence in February 2022, families are in shock, desperate for safety, and need access to essential services – including health, education, protection, water and sanitation – as well as life-saving supplies.
How is UNICEF helping children and families in Ukraine?
UNICEF is working around the clock with partners to scale up life-saving programmes for children.
Since February 2022:
- Around 4.9 million children and women in Ukraine have been able to access primary health care in UNICEF-supported facilities and through mobile teams.
- More than 4.2 million people have been provided with access to safe drinking water.
- Almost 1 million people have received critical water, sanitation and hygiene supplies.
- UNICEF-supported mental health and psychosocial support interventions have reached 2.6 million children and caregivers.
- More than 300,000 women and children have been reached by UNICEF-supported gender-based violence prevention, risk mitigation and response services.
- Around 880,000 children have been engaged in formal or non-formal education.
In neighbouring countries, UNICEF and partners have:
- Helped more than 520,000 children access formal and non-formal education, including early learning, across targeted countries.
- Worked closely with local authorities, municipalities and NGOs to provide mental health, psychosocial support and other protection services to more than 415,000 children and caregivers.
- Supported Ministries of Health to provide access to health services and immunization for refugee women and children.
- Distributed hygiene items and set up hygiene facilities in preparation for winter.
- Together with UNHCR, local authorities and partners, established ‘Blue Dots’ – safe spaces along border crossings in neighbouring countries that provide children and families with critical information and services.
- UNICEF is preparing for the upcoming winter season, during which temperatures plummet, raising significant concerns for children’s survival as families are unable to heat their homes because of damage or destruction to their houses, lack of access to adequate shelter, and overall lack of access to electricity or fuel.
- As the frontlines of the conflict shift and some families begin to return to their homes, child-centred recovery that meets the immediate and longer-term needs of children will be critical. UNICEF is focusing on strengthening the systems that support children’s health, education and protection, to ensure all children have equitable access to all these services.
UNICEF recognizes, and applauds, the many countries across Europe and beyond who have welcomed Ukrainian women and children with open arms. In a time of unprecedented global displacement, this welcoming of refugees from Ukraine is an example to the world of what is possible when we come together in solidarity.
But as the conflict and displacement continues and winter months approach, continued support is needed across the region to ensure refugee children aren’t left out in the cold.
What UNICEF is calling for
UNICEF will continue to call for:
- Principled and unimpeded humanitarian access.
- An end to attacks on children and the infrastructure they rely on, including schools, hospitals and critical water and food infrastructure.
- All parties to avoid use of schools or other facilities in this conflict.
- The end of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which are directly responsible for killing and maiming hundreds of children.