UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban visits Ukraine to highlight the ongoing impact of war on children
UNICEF official calls for a sustained humanitarian response and child-centred recovery in Ukraine
KYIV, 27 November 2023—UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Humanitarian Action and Supply Operations, Ted Chaiban, concluded today a one-week visit to Ukraine highlighting the urgent need for continued humanitarian response in conflict-affected areas, and for children to be at the forefront of recovery and rebuilding efforts.
“Children in Ukraine have endured 21 months of violence, displacement, suffering and loss since the escalation of the war in February 2022. This war is robbing millions of children of their childhoods, depriving them of their rights to education, health, development, protection and safety,” said Chaiban.
Grave violations of children’s rights in Ukraine continue, with 1,781 children reportedly killed or injured since February 2022. Meanwhile, persistent fighting, and a widespread risk to mines and explosive ordnances, place children’s safety at high risk. Schools and hospitals continue to be damaged by strikes, disrupting access to safe learning and vital services, including healthcare and water infrastructure.
“Children and the civilian infrastructure that they rely on should not be a target. They must be protected at all times. International humanitarian law, humanitarian principles, and human rights law must be respected,” said Chaiban.
The stress of war is having a profound impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children in Ukraine. At present, an estimated 1.5 million children are at risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.
Beyond the life-threatening violence, children in Ukraine are facing a fourth year of disrupted education. According to the Ministry of Education, more than 4,100 schools have been damaged or destroyed. The closure of schools and kindergartens due to attacks and the lack of safe bomb shelters is hindering children from accessing full-time face-to-face learning. Although children can continue learning online, they miss out on socialization with their peers and teachers which is crucial for their development. During the visit, the UNICEF Deputy Executive Director advocated for blended learning where security conditions allow.
Chaiban visited frontline areas in the Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia regions, where UNICEF continues its humanitarian response. As winter deepens, UNICEF is providing life-saving support like warm winter clothes, blankets, safe water, and psychosocial support to children and families. UNICEF is also providing generators and supporting the repair of local distribution systems so water supply systems, hospitals and other critical services can continue functioning. Humanitarian cash transfers are helping vulnerable families, like those raising children with disabilities, to get by as they continue to face economic hardships because of the war.
“Children and families in Ukraine face yet another difficult winter. In 2022, strikes on critical infrastructure severely disrupted electricity, water and heating across the country. On my last day there were serious of attacks happened in Kyiv. With the threat of renewed and intensified attacks, children are once again at risk of freezing temperatures well below zero and losing access to safe water and critical services like healthcare,” Chaiban warns.
Chaiban met senior officials of the Ukrainian Government and key partners to discuss priorities for children in both humanitarian response and recovery efforts, participated in the World Children’s Day event and the launch of “Better Care” Strategy. He reiterated UNICEF’s support for the children of Ukraine, both inside Ukraine and in refugee-hosting countries. Chaiban also called for child-centred rebuilding and recovery that focuses on children’s needs.
The Deputy Executive Director’s visit to Ukraine comes at a time of renewed focus on the impact of conflict on children. UNICEF estimates that 400 million children globally are living in or fleeing conflict zones, facing multiple and severe risks. As hostilities continue unabated, Ukraine’s 7.5 million children face an uncertain future.
“Children are not responsible for this war, yet they are paying the highest price for it. The children of Ukraine need peace, now. Without peace, their future—and the future of Ukraine—will remain uncertain. Children need an end to the war so they can regain their childhoods and start to heal and recover,” said Chaiban.
Notes to Editors:
Number of children killed or injured: Ukraine: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict — October 2023 update, OHCHR
Number of schools damaged or destroyed: Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine’s website on the impact of war on educational institutions
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org