Children and mothers are fleeing Ukraine extremely distressed after their families were torn apart as Russian military operations forced thousands of families from their homes to seek safety, Save the Children said today.
Fighting has forced children and families to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, with more than 500,000 people displaced, according to the UN. Already, more than 67,000 people have crossed into Romania, some travelling on foot with minimal belongings.
As bitter temperatures in the region continue, displaced children have faced long nights and days exposed to brutal conditions.
Save the Children teams in Romania reported seeing distressed children and mothers beside themselves with worry as many left their fathers and husbands behind after authorities ordered Ukrainian men aged 18-60 to stay and fight.
Gabriela Alexandrescu, CEO of Save the Children in Romania, said:
“We’re gravely concerned about the children and their families fleeing Ukraine, including many who have already survived eight years of conflict. Children and mothers are coming to our border reception support spaces with severe anguish.
“Although we’re seeing mothers have a sense of relief that their children are safe and have found refuge, they are terrified to be doing this alone. With husbands and fathers remaining in Ukraine, mothers are the ones who have their child’s life in their hands.”
Irina Saghoyan, Save the Children’s Eastern Europe Director, said:
“What we’re seeing unfold in Ukraine could become Europe’s biggest humanitarian emergency since 2015, when an influx of refugees arrived in Europe after fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. More than 500,000 people, have already fled Ukraine with fears that number could grow to as many as 5 million.
“We are seeing humanitarian needs soar at an alarming rate. We are also still experiencing cold weather, so displacement brings even greater risk. These children have experienced things no child should ever be exposed to. It is vital that all children entering neighbouring countries, including Romania, are protected, and have access to life-saving food, clean water, shelter, and mental health support.”
In Romania, Save the Children is working with migrants and asylum seekers in five reception centres. The aid organisation is currently conducting a needs assessment in four refugee camps in north-eastern Romania, and preparing to distribute essential items and set up spaces where children have a safe place to play, learn and cope with grief and loss.
Save the Children is also urgently assessing needs in Poland and Lithuania to respond to the needs of children and families fleeing the violence. The aid organisation is calling on neighbouring countries to provide access to asylum, protection, and assistance to all people fleeing Ukraine, regardless of their nationality or visa status. It is also vital that services for children are immediately available including safe places to play and learn, physical and mental health support, child-friendly information, and family tracing and reunification.
Save the Children has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, delivering essential humanitarian aid to children and their families. This includes supporting their access to education, providing psychosocial support, distributing winter kits and hygiene kits, and providing cash grants to families so they can meet basic needs such as food, rent and medicines, or so they can invest in new businesses.
To support Save the Children’s work in Ukraine and neighbouring countries donate here: www.savethechildren.org.au/ukraine
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