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“The fighting must stop” for children, UNICEF says

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More than 4.24 million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country since the February 24 invasion by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The figures are those of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Many children among them. The latter are ” attacked in places where they should be safe: in schools, in hospitals, in homes, in shelters explains Joe English, spokesperson for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.

RFI: What figures do you have on the situation of Ukrainian children in the war?

Joe English: The numbers are quite staggering. Now more than two million children have been forced to flee their homes to safety in other countries and more than two million children have been displaced within Ukraine’s borders.

►Read also: War in Ukraine: According to UNICEF. more than half of the children are displaced

And you know, when we talk about kids getting kicked out of their homes, the reality is that a lot of those kids don’t even have a home anymore. We have all seen those images of absolute devastation in Mariupol, Kherson or Kharkov. The magnitude of the destruction is incomprehensible. But what we must not forget is that besides the numbers, it is always a family, a child whose life has been turned upside down during these six weeks of utterly devastating conflict.

What risks do these children run if they have to flee? And at what risk if they stay in a conflict zone?

There is the direct impact of the violence. We know that more than 150 children have already lost their lives. Nearly 250 children were injured. And these are just numbers that the United Nations has been able to verify. So the reality is probably much worse. And children are being attacked in places where they should be safe: in schools, in hospitals, in homes, in shelters.

There are these direct effects of the violence, but it also affects those who have fled their homes. Many of them left behind their father, their older brothers. Their families are torn apart. So there are long-term consequences: the psychological impact and trauma that these children face. They need appropriate support and care to rebuild their lives.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on Tuesday, April 12 about “ hundreds of cases of rape, including of very young people “. What information do you have?

We have come across this information and it is impossible not to be completely shocked by it. Child sexual abuse, rape or sexual exploitation are serious violations of children’s rights in times of conflict. Independent investigations are needed and those who committed these acts must be held accountable.

What is the message UNICEF is sending to the warring parties?

We appeal to all parties to the conflict, to all those who exercise power or influence: the fighting must stop. Children’s lives are turned upside down. They have lost relatives. They saw their homes and cities destroyed. Children need peace, they need it as soon as possible. They really need it now.

►Listen also: Ukraine: children and war

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