At a time when Ukrainian children should be celebrating a summer break, the Russian war has instead brought young combat victims a level of suffering not endured since World War II, a UNICEF official said.
Citing UN figures, Murat Sahin, a UNICEF representative in Ukraine, said that every day, on average, more than two children are killed and four others are injured, “mostly in attacks with weapons explosive in populated areas”.
Sahin spoke on Saturday at St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv at an event hosted by Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska for the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Assault, celebrated annually on June 4.
“One hundred days of war brought devastation and suffering to Ukrainian children – on a scale and magnitude we have not seen since World War II,” Sahin said, according to a UNICEF statement. “And it had a profound impact on children’s lives with consequences that we will have to deal with in the years to come.”
Sahin noted that his remarks came as Ukrainian children are expected to celebrate the end of the school year, bring back report cards and make plans for summer vacation. But the war has “changed everything for them and their families”.
“It robs children of stability, security, school, friends, family, a home and hopes for the future,” Sahin said. “And it takes children’s lives and harms their bodies and souls.”
Fighting has displaced nearly two out of three Ukrainian children, UN says
“Families have been torn apart. Schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and thousands of homes have been damaged and continue to be destroyed,” Sahin said. “Conditions for children in areas where fighting has intensified are increasingly desperate. Children fleeing violence are at significant risk of family separation, violence, abuse, sexual exploitation and trafficking.”
Suhin predicted that “deep trauma and emotional pain” will affect Ukrainian children for many years.
“The violence and suffering must stop,” he said. “Each day of war increases the devastating long-term impact on vulnerable children around the world.”
Sahin offered his “sincere condolences” to the families who lost children “in this horrible war” and said the number of children killed would be “much higher” than figures that can be verified by the UN.
He spoke of the difficulties faced by Ukrainian parents as they try to raise their children in a war-torn country.
“The strength of every parent and caregiver in Ukraine and abroad deserves our utmost respect,” he said. “Every day Ukrainian mothers, fathers and caregivers wake up and go to bed not knowing what tomorrow will bring. And yet they do their best for all the children in their care to protect them. I would like sincerely thank them for that.”
Newsweek contacted the Russian government for comment.