More than 200,000 children, or one in four, in the two regions most severely affected by the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine require urgent and sustained psychosocial support to address their traumatic experiences, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today.
“The world has forgotten about this invisible crisis in eastern Ukraine, but hundreds of thousands of children are paying a heavy price, one that could last a lifetime without adequate support,” said UNICEF Ukraine Representative Giovanna Barberis in a news release, stressing the urgent need for funding to reach these traumatized children.
These children live in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, within 15 kilometres of each side of the 'contact-line' that divides government and non-government-controlled areas and where fighting is most intense.
They are in chronic fear and uncertainty due to sporadic shelling, unpredictable fighting and dangers from landmines and other unexploded ordinance.
Many risk their safety to get an education. Seven schools were damaged during the most recent escalation of violence in February and March, and more than 740 schools, or one in five, in eastern Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed since the conflict began in 2014.
Parents, teachers, school directors and psychologists continue to report striking behaviour changes in children as young as three years old. Symptoms include severe anxiety, bed-wetting, nightmares, aggressive behaviour and withdrawing from families and communities.
Dedicated social workers, psychologists and specially trained teachers are working around the clock. However, as the conflict drags on, additional investments are required to meet these children's needs.
UNICEF is appealing for $31.2 million to support these children and their families.
“Children should not have to live with the emotional scars from a conflict they had no part in creating. Additional support is needed now so that young people in Donetsk and Luhansk can grow into healthy adults and rebuild their communities,” said Ms. Barberis, calling on all sides of the conflict to recommit to the ceasefire signed in Minsk and end this senseless violence.