No Halt to Ukraine War amid Covid Crisis, and Children are Hardest Hit

A pupil in eastern Ukraine stands amid the wreckage of her conflict-damaged schoolroom A pupil in eastern Ukraine stands amid the wreckage of her conflict-damaged schoolroom UNICEF/UN0243152/Morris VII Photo

29 May 2020

Increasing attacks alongside lockdown measures gravely endanger the safety, well-being and education of more than 400,000 children, says UNICEF

The strains and stresses of the COVID-19 lockdown are accompanied by increased bombardment in eastern Ukraine’s ongoing conflict, affecting approximately 430,000 children. As well as grave concerns for the emotional well-being of the young, shelling has caused child casualties and damaged schools, the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) reports. Six children were injured by artillery fire during the first week of May alone, with victims’ ages ranging from seven to 17, bringing the total child casualties this year to 10, a significant increase compared to the same period last year. 172 children, the youngest a one-year-old girl, have been injured or killed by mines and explosives since the beginning of the conflict.

There have been nine attacks on schools so far during 2020, with five occurring in April alone, in spite of Ukraine endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration to safeguard education during conflicts. More than 750 educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed since the conflict began, while mines and explosives threaten two million lives. Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, points out that the six-year-long Ukraine conflict continues alongside stringent lockdown measures, with more than 22,000 COVID-19 cases nationwide, and Khan urges a ceasefire. The combination of pandemic and conflict cuts off many children’s access to education, even in remote form. Added to movement restrictions and social isolation, these factors will increase the trauma for already-vulnerable children living in conflict zones. 

UNICEF’s work in eastern Ukraine includes psychosocial support, counselling, mine risk education, school repairs, and sanitation work, but has also now expanded to a comprehensive range of COVID-19 relief operations. The agency is currently appealing for increased funding, and more broadly UNICEF joins calls for all parties in Ukraine to agree to a global ceasefire and end more than six years of fighting.


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Author: Edward Jarvis; Editor: Sara Gorelli

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