A month since Russia invaded Ukraine, 4.3 million children – more than half of the country’s estimated 7.5 million child population – have been displaced, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.
“The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War Two,” said UNICEF chief Catherine Russell.
This includes more than 1.8 million who have crossed into neighbouring countries as refugees and 2.5 million who are now internally displaced.
According to UN human rights office, OHCHR, 78 children have been killed, and 105 have been injured in Ukraine since the war began on 24 February.
But these figures represent only those casualties that the UN has been able to confirm – with the true toll likely far higher.
“This is a grim milestone that could have lasting consequences for generations to come”, Ms. Russell warned.
The war has also devastated civilian infrastructure and limited access to basic services.
Over the last four weeks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported 52 attacks that have impacted health care facilities across the country and Ukraine’s Education and Science Ministry has reported damage to more than 500 educational facilities.
“Essential infrastructure on which children depend, including hospitals, schools and buildings sheltering civilians, must never come under attack,” the top UNICEF official declared.
Meanwhile, some 1.4 million people now lack access to safe water; 4.6 million people have limited water access – under threat of being entirely cut-off – and more than 450,000 babies aged 6 to 23 months, need complementary food support.
“Children’s safety, wellbeing and access to essential services are all under threat from non-stop, horrific violence,” she said.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), one in three internally displaced people suffers from a chronic condition – aggravating the health of those with non-communicable diseases.
And as inoculation rates plummet, including for measles and polio, outbreaks of these vaccine-preventable diseases may also increase.
“In just a few weeks, the war has wrought such devastation for Ukraine’s children,” Ms. Russell added.
“Children urgently need peace and protection. They need their rights”, she continued, appealing for an immediate cease-fire and greater protection of children.