“The fighting must stop” for children, says UNICEF

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More than 4.24 million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country since the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24. The figures come from the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Including many children. These last are” attacked in places where they should be safe: schools, hospitals, homes, shelters explains Joe English, spokesman for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.

RFI: What figures do you have on the situation of Ukrainian children during the war?

Joe English: The numbers are pretty staggering. Now there are more than two million children who have had to flee their homes to other countries, and more than two million children have been displaced within the borders of Ukraine.

►Also read: War in Ukraine: According to Unicef, more than half of the children have been displaced

And you know, when we talk about kids getting kicked out of their homes, the reality is that a lot of those kids don’t even have a home anymore. We have all seen these images of absolute devastation in Mariupol, Kherson or Kharkiv. The extent of the destruction is unimaginable. But what we must not forget is that beyond the numbers, each time it is a family, a child, whose life has been turned upside down in the most devastating way during these six weeks of conflict.

What risks do these children face if they are forced to flee? And at what risk if they remain in a conflict zone?

There are direct effects of violence. We know that more than 150 children have already lost their lives. Almost 250 children were injured. And these are just the numbers that the United Nations has been able to verify. So the reality is probably much worse. And children are being attacked in places where they should be safe: in schools, in hospitals, in homes, in shelters.

There are these direct consequences of violence, but it also affects those who have fled their homes. Many of them left their fathers behind, their older brothers. Their families are torn apart. So there are long-term consequences: the psychological effects and trauma these children are subjected to. They need proper support and care so they can rebuild their lives.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke on Tuesday, April 12, of “ Hundreds of rapes, including by very young people “. What information do you have?

We stumbled across this information and it’s impossible not to be completely appalled by it. Child sexual abuse, child rape or sexual exploitation are serious violations of children’s rights in times of conflict. Independent investigations are needed and those who committed these acts must be held accountable.

What message is UNICEF sending to the warring parties?

We appeal to all parties to the conflict, to everyone who has power or influence: the fighting must stop. The children’s lives were turned upside down. You have lost loved ones. They saw their homes and cities devastated. Children need peace, they need it as soon as possible. You really need it now.

►Also listen: Ukraine: Children and War

© RFI

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