War ravaged Ukraine has left thousands of children helpless. Besides children having been killed and wounded an estimated half a million children have fled Ukraine to take shelter in neighbouring countries.
While the country is running low on critical medical supplies there are genuine fears of a wider public health crisis.
The first batch of UNICEF humanitarian supplies has arrived on Sunday in Lviv, western Ukraine, from UNICEF’s Global Supply and Logistics Hub in Copenhagen. The six-truck convoy containing an estimated 62 tonnes of supplies reached UKRAINE on March 5.
The supplies include personal protective equipment to protect health workers from COVID-19, medical supplies, including medicine, first aid kits, midwifery kits, and surgical equipment, and early childhood and recreational kits.
Executive Director UNICEF Catherine M. Russel has said “UNICEF is deeply concerned that intensifying hostilities in Ukraine pose an immediate threat to the lives and wellbeing of the country’s 7.5 million children. Heavy weapons fire along the line of contact has already damaged critical water infrastructure and education facilities in recent days. Unless the fighting subsides, tens of thousands of families could be forcibly displaced, dramatically escalating humanitarian needs.”
“UNICEF is working across eastern Ukraine to scale up life-saving programmes for children. This includes trucking safe water to conflict-affected areas; prepositioning health, hygiene, and emergency education supplies as close as possible to communities near the line of contact; and working with municipalities to ensure there is immediate help for children and families in need.
She said, UNICEF-supported mobile teams, are also providing psychosocial care to children traumatized by chronic insecurity.
“The past eight years of conflict have inflicted profound and lasting damage to children on both sides of the line of contact. The children of Ukraine need peace, desperately, now,” she added.
UNICEF has also called on all parties to refrain from attacking essential infrastructure on which children depend – including water and sanitation systems, health facilities, and schools.
“The situation for children and families in Ukraine is increasingly desperate,” said Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. “These supplies will help provide much-needed support to women, children, and health care workers.”
Since the conflict escalated, families have been sheltering underground, cut off from basic services. Hospitals and maternity wards have moved their patient to basements. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people are without safe drinking water due to damage to water system infrastructure. The country is running low on critical medical supplies and has had to halt urgent efforts to curb a polio outbreak.
An additional batch of supplies including 17,000 blankets and warm winter clothing for children are also being sent via Poland from UNICEF’s Turkey Country Office warehouse in Mersin.
“UNICEF is working around the clock, preparing to scale up operations as soon as access and security restrictions are eased and humanitarian assistance can be deployed to the hardest-hit areas,” according to Sahin.
UNICEF is also scaling up its response to meet the urgent needs of children and families crossing into neighbouring countries. These efforts include setting up ‘Blue Dot’ safe spaces along transit routes for children and mothers to access services.
UNICEF Ukraine Crises Response for Children has appealed for a total of US$349 million that includes US$276 million for its programmes inside Ukraine and requires an additional US$73 million to assist children in neighbouring countries.