Children victims of the Russian war in Ukraine
The NGO Save the Children says there is no aspect of Ukrainian children’s lives that has not been affected since the large-scale invasion began in February 2022.
The number of child victims of the war in Ukraine exceeded 500 in April, according to UNICEF. Nearly a thousand other children were injured. It is also pointed out that these are only confirmed figures and that the actual number of children killed could be much higher.
Most of those killed were in the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions of Ukraine, where intense and prolonged fighting took place.
According to UNICEF, the cause of most of the deaths was “the use of explosive weapons”, meaning massive rocket, air and artillery attacks, mainly against populated areas.
A huge threat, as Sonia Kush, head of the Ukrainian branch of the NGO Save the Children, told Euronews, are mines and unexploded devices: 30% of the country’s territory is mined.
“When we’re talking about 30% of the country contaminated, it will probably take years to clear landmines. So, in the meantime, organizations like Save the Children do a lot of what we call mine risk education, which works with children, their teachers and parents and shows them examples of what landmines look like so they can avoid them, and what to do if they find themselves in a minefield.”
According to Save the Children, there is no aspect of Ukrainian children’s lives that has not been affected since the large-scale invasion began in February 2022.
“Children need mental health support. They need support to deal with all the anxiety and emotions they are feeling due to the drastic and extremely changeable conditions in the country. They have need educational support. We know that after two years of COVID, there is now a third year where many children have lost access to school or did not have a device to continue their studies in online,” Sonia Kush told Euronews.
“They need good health care. We know that many clinics have been destroyed. Up to 700 have been damaged in the attacks. Their parents need help to earn a living so that they have an income for take care of their children.”
The Danger of “Toxic Stress”
According to Save the Children, in 2022 every child in Ukraine was forced to spend an average of 900 hours – more than 38 days – in shelters and shelters.
The issue of psychological support is therefore one of the most important. Children who are victims of conflict, who have themselves suffered physically or who have seen the death and suffering of their loved ones, children who find themselves in radically different conditions could in fact “get used to” the situation and stop perceive war, hostilities and violence in general as a mortal danger and as something wrong and unacceptable.
“Unfortunately, one of the things we have learned from our work is to deal with the psychological and mental health impact of conflict on children as events unfold,” said explained Sonia.
“Because if you don’t and you let the trauma build up in the kids, it becomes what we call toxic stress. It’s a clinical term that basically means that stress can build up in the a child’s body and affect it into adulthood. It can even affect them physically,” she added.
Hundreds of thousands of other children have been moved out of Ukraine, and not necessarily to the West. At least 730,000 Ukrainian minors have “arrived in Russia” since the start of the large-scale invasion, according to Russian data released by Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova on April 4.
The international community and Ukraine call this an “illegal transfer” of children. On March 17, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova.
According to the ICC, the latter is “allegedly responsible for the war crime of illegal deportation of population (of children) and illegal transfer of population (of children) from the occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”. […] The crimes were allegedly committed in occupied Ukrainian territory at least since February 24, 2022. There are reasonable grounds to believe that Ms. Lvova-Belova bears individual criminal responsibility for the above-mentioned crimes, having committed the acts directly, jointly with other others and/or through others.”
Moscow calls these children “refugees” and says most of them arrived with their parents or guardians. This is widely refuted internationally.