19 December 2014 – In eastern Ukraine, the situation remains ‘extremely serious’ for more than 1.7 million children affected by the escalating crisis, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today as it appealed for funds to continue its humanitarian response in the country.
“Since March 2014, more than one million people have been displaced from the conflict-affected areas, including nearly 530,000 people within Ukraine, of who at least 130,000 are children,”
Kristen Elsby, UNICEF’s communication director for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia said today in a Geneva press briefing.
She explained displaced Ukrainian children are faced with hardships and extremely limited opportunities when trying to enrol in schools located in their host communities. “Parents are not registering their children in new schools, as they expect either further displacement or intend to return home.”
Ms. Elsby said UNICEF needs $32.4 million to address the urgent needs of some 600,000 children and their families. Specifically the money will provide 225,000 affected school-aged children with school supplies; 100,000 children with support to reduce heightened levels of stress; polio vaccines at the Government’s request; and 250,000 children and women with safe water and hygiene supplies.
Thus far, UNICEF has received $9.4 million in funding and pledges.
Having just returned from Kharkiv, Ms. Elsby described the scene on the ground, where she said some 500 people arrive daily from Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. While some people are settling in in Kharkiv, others continue on to Kiev.
On certain days, Ms. Elsby explained, as many as 5,000 people arrive in the city. UNICEF along with its partners is helping prepare refugees and the displaced for cold winter months ahead. However, the Fund does not have access to areas of ongoing fighting and therefore any civilians who are trapped there.
According to UNICEF, the conflict in Ukraine has left 147 schools closed in part of Donetsk Oblast, where fighting continues, and disrupted the education of some 50,000 children since 1 September alone. In government-controlled areas, 187 educational institutions had been damaged or destroyed.
At least 44 children have been killed in Ukraine in 2014.