War in Ukraine 'robbing children of stability, safety, school, friends, family, a home and hopes for the future'

UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, Murat Sahin's remarks at St. Sophia Cathedral

04 June 2022
Ukraine. A man places his hand to the window of a train car as he says goodbye to his wife and children before they depart on a special evacuation train.
UNICEF/UN0637170/Gilbertson VII Photo

KYIV, 4 June 2022 - "Excellencies, colleagues, First Lady of Ukraine – I would like to thank you for bringing us together on this sombre yet important occasion and thank you personally for your strength and courage to bring to light and share children’s stories and their voices with the whole world.

"Let’s imagine for a moment what families and children would be speaking about at their homes this time of the year in a normal year, like last year. Children would come back from school bringing their report cards. They would be planning for a summer break – getting ready for holidays, enjoying a family dinner at a restaurant, receiving a bike or a tablet as a gift for the end of the school year. It is also the time of the year when grandparents connect with their grandchildren – spend their precious time and hard-earned pension to share family memories and traditions from generation to generation.

"One hundred days ago, these children had normal lives. They were safe. They had hopes and dreams to chase. They went to school and met with their friends.  But the war has changed everything for them and their families. It is robbing children of stability, safety, school, friends, family, a home and hopes for the future. And it is taking children’s lives and harming their bodies and souls.

"One hundred days of war have brought devastation and suffering to Ukraine’s children – at a scale and scope that we have not seen since the Second World War. And it has deeply impacted children’s lives with consequences that we will need to address for years to come. Almost two out of every three children have been displaced by fighting.

"Families have been ripped apart. Schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and thousands of homes were damaged and continue to be destroyed; Conditions for children in areas where fighting has intensified are increasingly desperate. Children fleeing from violence are at significant risk of family separation, violence, abuse, sexual exploitation, and trafficking. Most have been exposed to deep trauma and emotional suffering that will stay with them for years to come.

"I would like to offer my deepest condolences to every family that lost a child to this horrible war. Each day, on average, more than two children are killed and more than four are injured – mostly in attacks using explosive weapons in populated areas. And these are just the numbers that the UN has been able to verify – we believe the true figures to be much higher.

"The strength of every parent and every caregiver in Ukraine and abroad deserves our highest level of respect. Every single day, Ukrainian mothers, fathers and caregivers wake up and go to bed not knowing what the next day will bring.  And yet they are doing their absolute best for all children in their care to keep them safe. I would like to sincerely thank them for that.

"UNICEF and partners are doing everything we can to help children and their families impacted by the war so that they make it through these incredibly difficult times. We have been and will continue to provide essential humanitarian assistance such as protection, water and sanitation, health, nutrition and education services.

"But above all children need peace now. The violence and suffering need to stop. Every day of war is increasing the long-lasting devastating impact on vulnerable children around the world.

"Getting every child back to normalcy will not be an easy task. But where many see an impossible challenge, we are motivated to try harder to get every child a better future.  We are committed and we count on each and every one of you to join us, join the First Lady, as we take this ambitious and daring journey together so that every child in Ukraine can fulfil their potential and realise their dreams.

"It is my deepest hope that the children of Ukraine and those who had to leave the country will not have to suffer through another day of war, let alone another one hundred. They need peace and they need it now.

"Thank you."

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