Displaced by conflict in Ukraine
Families are being uprooted by devastating violence. UNICEF is on the ground providing support and safety.
The escalating conflict in Ukraine has been terrifying, especially for children. In shock and desperate for safety, hundreds of thousands of people are on the move, searching for shelter and safety, including in neighbouring countries. Half of the refugees are children.
Families on the move need access to basic necessities like shelter, food and clean water. Children are also being traumatized by the violence they are witnessing all around them and are in desperate need of psychosocial care.
Despite the operational and security challenges, UNICEF is on the ground, working around the clock in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to provide support for displaced families in need.
As the conflict has intensified, thousands of families have been forced to flee their homes, carrying their children and whatever belongings they could quickly gather together.
Asya says that at first, she stayed in her apartment in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. But living on the 15th floor meant that it was difficult to get down to the bomb shelter with her daughter. “So, we just slept in the bathroom,” Asya says. “We put [our daughter] in the tub so she could stay in the tub, and we just slept there.”
Families have been walking long distances in freezing temperatures to find shelter, sometimes in neighbouring countries.
A team from UNICEF Moldova travelled to the Palanca crossing point on the border with Ukraine where a temporary refugee centre is located. The team has delivered several tons of desperately needed basic hygiene products, including diapers, disinfectant, and wipes.
UNICEF and UNHCR are also reactivating the “Blue Dot” safe spaces which provided crucial support to families on the move during the refugee and migrant crisis of 2015-2016. The hubs provide a one-stop safe space for children and their families and offer a range of services, including places for children to play, psychosocial support, basic legal counselling, recreational kits and hygiene products. They also have the ability to identify unaccompanied and separated children and ensure their protection.
Yaroslav, 9, is traveling with his mother, Vica. They are planning to cross into Romania after an arduous journey that started a few days earlier in their hometown of Kherson, in southern Ukraine.
“Our family is there. All the time they are sheltering. It’s a disaster”, Vica says. “We have a couple of friends in Europe, maybe we can go there, we don’t know. Maybe Spain, but I’m not sure right now”.
She says she has spoken with friends who stayed behind in Kherson. “All the kids there are terrified to death, hiding in bathrooms, in the shelters, hiding in basements.”
Tania is from the city of Chernivtsi, which is in western Ukraine close to the border with Romania. She says she had to make a quick decision when the conflict intensified to leave home with her family. “The decision was taken in just a few moments, because the situation in Ukraine is very hard and you don’t know what it will be the next minute,” she says.
David is also from Chernivtsi, in western Ukraine, but fled with his grandmother to the border with Romania when the conflict escalated.
Max is traveling with his mother Alona. They fled to western Ukraine before traveling to Romania and are trying to reach France. Alona says that they also had to make a snap decision to leave, but were fortunate not to get caught up in traffic jams. “My parents live outside Kyiv and were woken up by the sound of explosions near their house,” she says. “We were able to leave within 15 minutes.”
The lives of children on the move have been turned upside down, and many have faced turmoil and distress on their journey. UNICEF is working with partners to provide emergency supplies, as well as safe spaces that offer at least some sense of predictability, certainty at an uncertain time, and somewhere that families can get the help and support that is every child’s right.