GENEVA, SWITZERLAND —
The U.N. children’s fund calls the daily suffering endured by more than 500,000 Ukrainian children victimized by two years of conflict intolerable.
UNICEF finds children living in areas controlled by Russian-supported rebels in eastern Ukraine are being deprived of their most basic rights and needs.
The U.N. children’s fund considers the many children affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine as much more than just “collateral damage.” It says the deprivation and trauma experienced by those who are most affected - some 580,000 children living near the front line - will have life-long damaging consequences.
UNICEF representative in Ukraine Giovanna Barberis said these children were being deprived of their basic rights, including education, housing and the right to play. Speaking by telephone from the capital Kyiv, she said about 215,000 of the 1.6 million people displaced by the conflict could not return to the homes they were forced to flee.
“Over 200,000—so one in three are in need of psychosocial support…These are children that have witnessed violence and fighting and that are really in need of immediate support," said Barberis.
Temperatures in the region are plummeting and Barberis said fuel shortages and high prices of coal were leaving children at risk of respiratory infections. She warned of an outbreak of diseases because of the lack of health services and a shortage of medicines.
She said children were facing the imminent threat of stepping on landmines and other unexploded devices. She told VOA there was no proper system for tracking the number of children killed and maimed by these devices.
She said UNICEF was relying on what she terms "unrealistic figures" from the Ministry of Health.
“Out of the 60 children that had been killed as a result of the conflict, around 40 were killed by mines because of jumping on any of these devices. But, again, I would not take it as a reliable figure,” said Barberis.
In the early stages of the conflict, the government in Kyiv cut off social payments to people living in the rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine. This has created great hardships for the population.
Barberis said the government has not resumed any benefit payments, but Russia was trying to mitigate the situation by providing some financial support