Apr 12, 2022
The U.N. children's agency is pleading for an immediate end to Russia's war on Ukraine as it warns that not only are civilians under attack but also "all the systems that help children survive."
"The math is simple. Every day the war continues, children will continue to suffer."
"In my 31 years as a humanitarian, I have rarely seen so much damage caused in so little time," UNICEF emergency programs director Manuel Fontaine, just back from a mission to Ukraine, told the U.N. Security Council in a speech on Monday.
Since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, he told the Security Council, nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have been forced to flee their homes. The U.N. has verified 142 children killed and 229 children injured, he added, though the actual casualty count is likely far higher.
Fontaine singled out a Friday missile strike on a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk that killed over 50 people as they attempted to evacuate as "particularly horrifying" and "unconscionable."
However, he said, "it is just one of many instances in this war where we have seen a blatant disregard for civilian lives--and international humanitarian law."
The UNICEF official also lamented the dire situation in cities including Mariupol and Kherson, where Ukrainians are facing a lack of running water, a regular supply of food, and medical care as they take shelter from bombs.
In cities already under assault, critical infrastructure has been decimated.
"Hostilities have damaged or destroyed hundreds of residential houses," said Fontaine, while "attacks on hospitals, healthcare facilities, and medical equipment--and the killing and injuring of healthcare professionals--are making it even harder for people to access emergency care, basic healthcare, and medicine."
Hundreds of schools have also been attacked, he said, some of which were serving as shelter sites.
Fontaine framed the situation for youth in the Donbas region as particularly grim, bemoaning "a whole generation of children" that "have already seen their lives and education upended during the past eight years of conflict."
Of further concern, he told the Security Council, is "the widespread presence of explosive remnants of war which expose children to the risk of death and horrendous injury." That's especially true in Eastern Ukraine, he said, as the region was contaminated with unexploded ordnance even before Russia's February invasion.
"I want to entreat all those with the power to end this war to use that power," Fontaine said. "The math is simple. Every day the war continues, children will continue to suffer."
"It is time to end this war," he said. "Ukraine's children cannot afford to wait."
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