The United Nation’s children’s agency says some 2 million children have fled the fighting in Ukraine, with another 2.5 million driven from their homes within the country.
In a statement released Wednesday, UNICEF, along with the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR), said children make up half of all refugees from the war in Ukraine. UNICEF reports more than 1.1 million children have arrived in Poland, with hundreds of thousands also arriving in Romania, Moldova, Hungary Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
UNCHR has documented that more than 100 children have been killed during the conflict, and an additional 134 children have been injured, though the agency says the true toll is likely to be much higher.
Both U.N. agencies warn that displaced children heighten the risk of trafficking and exploitation. To seek to reduce the risks children and young people face, UNICEF, UNHCR and government and civil society partners are scaling up “Blue Dot” centers in refugee-hosting countries, including Moldova, Romania and Slovakia.
The “Blue Dot” centers are one-stop safe spaces that can provide information to traveling families, help identify unaccompanied and separated children and ensure their protection from exploitation, and serve as a hub for access to essential services.
UNICEF said it is also working urgently with national governments and other authorities across the region to put further measures in place to keep children safe, including strengthening child protection screening at border crossings.
In Wednesday’s statement, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said, “The situation inside Ukraine is spiraling.” As the number of children fleeing their homes continues to climb, she added, it is important to remember “every single one of them needs protection, education, safety and support.”
This week, UNICEF began a humanitarian cash transfer program to support 52,000 of the most vulnerable families inside Ukraine. In addition, the agency, as of this week, has dispatched 114 trucks carrying 1,275 metric tons of emergency supplies to support children and families in Ukraine and the bordering countries.
The supplies include medicines and medical equipment, winter clothes for children, and hygiene, educational, early childhood development and recreational kits.