UNICEF says 17 percent of the schools it supports in eastern Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed in Russia’s war against the neighboring country. That equates to one in six schools.
The U.N. agency said in a release Wednesday that two schools have been attacked in the past week, and that “hundreds of schools across the country” have been hit by artillery or airstrikes since the outbreak of the war. Russia invaded Ukraine February 24.
“The start of the academic year in Ukraine was one of hope and promise for children following COVID-19 disruptions,” said Murat Sahin, UNICEF representative to Ukraine. “Instead, hundreds of children have been killed, and the school year ends amid the closure of classrooms due to war and the decimation of educational facilities.”
UNICEF said it was trying to reach Ukrainian children unable to attend school via online learning.
The agency says it has also “set up spaces where teachers, psychologists and sports instructors play and engage children on a regular basis.”
UNICEF says it is also trying to provide education support to countries that have taken in Ukrainian children.
“Despite the horror of war, impressive work has gone into making sure children can keep learning,” said Sahin. “Ultimately, the fighting needs to stop so that classrooms can be rebuilt, and schools can be safe and fun places to learn again.”
Last month, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Russia’s indiscriminate shelling and bombing of populated areas, the killing of civilians and destruction of hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure in Ukraine may amount to war crimes.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some information provided by Reuters.