“Every day the war goes on, children continue to suffer”

New York, April 11, 2022 – “Mr. President, Excellencies and Colleagues, I would like to express my appreciation to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and Ambassador Ferit Hoxha for convening today’s meeting. I would also like to thank Ambassador Woodward and the United Kingdom for hosting this briefing during your presidency of the Security Council.

I returned from a mission in Ukraine last week. Rarely in my 31 years of humanitarian work have I seen so much damage done in such a short time.

The attack on Friday at the Kramatorsk train station was particularly cruel.

The station was a vital route for thousands of families fleeing Donetsk Oblast — an area that has seen some of the worst violence and destruction of the war. When the station was attacked, it was packed with families desperate to escape the mounting violence. I sense the tragic irony that our teams were unloading essential supplies just a kilometer away while so many lives were being claimed by this needless act of violence.

The attack on the Kramatorsk railway station is inadmissible. And yet this is just one of many examples in this war where we have seen a blatant disregard for the lives of civilians – and for international humanitarian law.

In Ukraine, children, families and communities are being attacked

Of the estimated 3.2 million children who are left at home, almost half are at risk of not having enough to eat. Attacks on water supply system infrastructure and power outages have left an estimated 1.4 million people in Ukraine without access to water. Another 4.6 million people have limited access.

The situation is even worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson, where children and their families have been without running water, sanitation, regular food and medical care for several weeks. They take shelter in their homes and underground, waiting for the bombing and violence to stop.

As of yesterday, UNHCR confirmed that 142 children had been killed and 229 injured. We know those numbers are likely much higher – and that many of them were caused by crossfire or the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

I met one of these children in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Zaporizhizia. Vlad, 4, was shot twice in the stomach while fleeing an attacked area with his family. Though still unconscious, unlike so many others, Vlad was meant to be alive.

All systems that help children survive are also under attack.

Hostilities damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. Attacks on hospitals, healthcare facilities, and medical equipment — and the killings and injuries of medical workers — make access to emergency, essential services, and medicines even more difficult.

Hundreds of schools and educational institutions were attacked or used for military purposes. Others serve as shelters for civilians. Statewide school closures are impacting the learning — and futures — of 5.7 million school-age children and 1.5 million college students. In the past eight years of conflict in the Donbass region, an entire generation of children has had their lives and education turned upside down.

We welcome the authorities’ efforts to ensure the continuity of training. However, this can only be a temporary solution. The lessons of the pandemic show the importance of children learning in a school with peers and teachers.

Excellencies, I have met families in Zaporizhia who told me that they wanted to remain in their homes but were forced to flee when the shelling and violence became too much. Thousands more are now trying to flee before the fighting around them ends. On their way, they encounter other dangers – rockets, crossfire and fragments of explosives.

In just six weeks, nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s children have been displaced. They had to leave everything behind: their homes, their schools and often their family members as well.

I have heard stories of the desperate measures parents are taking to keep their children safe and children saddened at not being able to return to school. A social worker told me the story of parents who were forced to send their children with a truck driver just to get them out of the line of fire.

These unaccompanied children are much more vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. Women face similar risks. We are extremely concerned at the increasing reports of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence.

Luckily there was a wave of solidarity from neighboring countries to welcome the refugees. The solidarity expressed towards Ukrainian refugees is a very positive development that should certainly be repeated worldwide for all those seeking protection and asylum, wherever they come from.

UNICEF and our partners are doing everything they can.

Within Ukraine we continue to face extremely difficult operating conditions. We’ve seen some progress over the past few weeks, with our teams and supplies reaching Sumy, Kharkiv and Kramatorsk, among others. But that’s not enough.

The ongoing hostilities prevent us from reaching the most disadvantaged people in many parts of the country. We saw it last week in Kramatorsk, when explosions nearby forced our teams to stop offloading supplies and scramble to safety.

We also help local authorities to identify and register unaccompanied and separated children. We provide families with much-needed humanitarian cash assistance and educate them on the risks of explosive ordnance.

In Zaporizhzhia, I visited a reception center set up by the local authorities and run mainly by working women so that displaced people can access health and mental health services, receive a hot meal and get temporary rest. These services are essential, but they are not solutions.

Many of those who managed to escape early found refuge in other countries. We do not know what will happen to those who are now being evicted. They are exposed to violence longer and may have fewer resources at their disposal.

Every day the war goes on, the children continue to suffer

Resources are already scarce and residents live in a state of insecurity as regular airstrikes and warnings from local officials are heard, reminding them that the front lines may soon reach them too.

excellence, I am particularly concerned about the widespread presence of explosive remnants of war, putting children at risk of death and horrific injuries. Even before the most recent escalation, eastern Ukraine was one of the most mine-affected regions in the world. This reality is quickly spreading to other regions of the country.

We carefully monitor the health, rights and dignity of women and girls as the risk of exploitation and abuse increases.

And we continue to reiterate the need to ensure that children who have been separated from their families or who are living in institutions are protected and that every effort is made to obtain the consent of those who care for them and the authorization of the authorities, before these children are sheltered evacuated or relocated.

In closing, I would like to express how proud I am of our United Nations teams, both in Ukraine and in neighboring countries. Your work is essential.

I also want to recognize the remarkable resilience of the Ukrainian doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers – especially the women who have been at the forefront of the response. I am deeply impressed by the care they offer to children and families.

I visited an underground maternity hospital in Lviv, staffed 24 hours a day by a team of tireless women who attended deliveries despite air raid warnings. Local women’s organizations are mobilizing grassroots networks to care for the most vulnerable, even in the direst of circumstances. Her courage and dedication are a light in the dark.

But most of all, I want to urge everyone who has the power to end this war to use that power. The lives and futures of millions of children are at stake.

Excellencies, the calculation is simple. Every day the war goes on, children continue to suffer.

As humanitarians, you can count on us to keep doing our work, but we cannot do everything.

It’s time to end this war. The children of Ukraine cannot afford to wait.

Thanks. »

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