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Caught in a conflict not of their making

02 March 2022, Impact of Our Work

It is a conflict that has disrupted their lives for eight years, now children in Ukraine are in even greater danger as violence escalates

As the rest of the world watched the escalating crisis in Ukraine on the news, 16-year-old Anna* was waking up to the very real terror of violence near her doorstep.

“We woke up at 5 in the morning to explosions and shots. Within half an hour we were told shelling had begun on the neighbouring town,” she said. You can listen to Anna relive this scary moment here.

Paying the terrible price for a war not of their making

Anna is one of Ukraine’s 7.5 million children who are caught in the middle of the conflict. There is no safe place in Ukraine, and the situation is changing by the hour. Children face risks of being harmed by guns, landmines, and explosive weapons. 

As explosions and street fighting ramp up in cities, children and families are forced into basements and bomb shelters. Parents are reporting trying to calm their terrified children. Some are showing significant signs of distress and have trouble sleeping. The risk to their mental health and the potential for long-term trauma cannot be underestimated.

As the conflict intensified, thousands fled the capital as temperatures dropped below freezing. Displaced children are at risk of facing long nights and days exposed to brutal conditions.

Children and families from dozens of nationalities, including migrant workers and students living in Ukraine are facing acute challenges as they attempt to leave conflict-affected areas, cross borders into neighbouring countries and seek life-saving assistance. Save the Children is very concerned about reports of racial discrimination they are facing at the border on their way out of Ukraine.

Ukrainian families and children crossing the border into Romania to escape conflict
Photo: Camelia Iordache/Salvati Copiii (Save the Children) Romania

“It should never have come to this”

Save the Children is gravely concerned for children like Anna caught in the middle of this armed conflict, forced from their homes, and exposed to injury, hunger and cold. 

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.”

Ukraine’s children are caught in the crossfire of this adult war. It should never have come to this.

Irina Saghoyan, Save the Children’s Eastern Europe Director

Families crossing the border from Ukraine receive water, juices, hygiene kits, face masks, perishable foods, kits
for newborns and flyers with necessary information
Photo: Save the Children

Save the Children’s Response

Save the Children has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, delivering essential humanitarian aid to children and their families. We distribute essential supplies and winter kits of clothing and blankets, provide families with cash grants for them to purchase food, medicine and other goods they need, and protect children from harm and provide them with access to a quality education. 

We are encouraged by the response of neighbouring countries opening their borders to those fleeing horrific violence in Ukraine. We are urgently assessing the needs in Poland and Lithuania to respond to children and families fleeing the violence. In Romania, Save the Children staff and volunteers continue to help refugees arriving from Ukraine at the border and in reception centres with provision of basic non-food items and other outreach services.

Our teams are responding where they can - and will continue for as long as it is safe and possible to do so. We are ready to scale-up our delivery of essential humanitarian aid to children in Ukraine and their families to ensure children impacted by this crisis have the support they need. As people flee their homes in the middle of winter, our most immediate concern is their need for shelter, food, and clean water.  

With the generous help of supporters, Save the Children will continue to increase our response with:

  • Urgent support for families in evacuation sites or in villages 
  • Psychological First Aid for children at risk of severe emotional distress
  • Cash assistance to help people get the basic food, water & shelter to survive
  • Helping keep families together and safe places for children
  • Distribution of emergency items such as blankets, medicine and hygiene kits
  • Keeping children in school or learning via temporary learning spaces 
  • Working in neighboring countries including Poland, Romania and Lithuania to support people/ families fleeing Ukraine

*Name has been changed to protect identity.
Photo: Camelia Iordache/Salvati Copiii (Save the Children) Romania.

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