The war in Ukraine keeps six million children trapped

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The war in Ukraine has forced at least one in five children to leave the country and keeps others six million trapped in a situation of “grave danger”according to the NGO Save The Children, which warns that attacks against schools and hospitals in different areas of the country continue to take place.

As indicated by the director general of Save the Children Ukraine, Pete Walsh, at a press conference offered this Thursday, some 450 schools have been damaged and 72 have been completely destroyed, while some 68 hospitals have been attacked since the beginning of the Russian invasion, just a month ago. This, beyond the direct threat it poses to physical integrity, has meant that access to education or health care has been interrupted for many minors.

Walsh, who is currently in Lviv, has also reported that just this Thursday they had news that three children have had to be hospitalized in Melitopol after having played with an explosive device: “Children are very vulnerable to weapons. They think they are toys and take them,” he said.

In some areas they also suffer from a lack of food or water

According to this NGO, damage to schools and hospitals will increase if fighting continues, especially in populated areas. At the moment there are, they calculate, more than 300 health buildings in areas with active fighting or with a significant presence of military troops.

The difficult situation has caused many minors to take refuge in buildings that are being attacked, which places them in a situation of vulnerability and risk of suffering. serious injury or even death. On the other hand, many children in areas like Mariupol, Walsh said, are also facing a lack of food, water or health care.

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Regarding the number of minors who have been able to die since February 24, the day the conflict began, Walsh refers to the data offered by the UN (about 80) and by the Ukrainian government (more than 100). In any case, he senses that the figures could be worse: “I am absolutely sure that the number will be much higher“.

Among the multiple tasks carried out by the organization, one of the priorities is family reunification. Walsh explained that one of his teams has recently located some 40 unaccompanied children: “They are children who do not know where their families arewho don’t know where their mother or father is,” he said.

In addition, they emphasize the importance of prioritizing “respect for education” and they detail that they are collaborating with the local authorities and the associations of fathers and mothers to try that at least the schoolchildren can have online classes from wherever they are and do not miss the opportunity to continue learning.

The organization has also recalled in recent days that, while the fighting continues, there are international legal obligations that must be respected to protect the civilian population and civilian objects, including schools and hospitals, which are protected by international humanitarian law.

70,000 minors protected in centers: there are children in “complete abandonment”

Also this Thursday the NGO Aldeas Infantiles SOS has warned that 70,000 protected minors are trapped in risk areas of the country, which has one of the highest rates of residential care in all of Europe.

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Some 98,000 children and adolescents (around 1.3% of the child population) were living in alternative care institutions when the war broke out.

According to reports, a large part of these minors continue in their reception centers, whose staff is already alarmingly low and faces significant challenges in providing them with adequate care, psychosocial support and assistance, especially those with special needs. Food and heat are in short supply, and access to education and health care is becoming increasingly difficult.

“Many workers, moreover, have left, leaving a large number of these children in complete abandonment. We have witnessed this”, assured the professionals of Villages in Ukraine. “These boys and girls are exposed to a high risk of violence and abandonment, and are isolated”, they have warned.

They ask that the reception be carried out through “official” channels to avoid trafficking

On the other hand, they have requested that the reception of Ukrainian minors be carried out “from State to State” through “official” channels with the aim of “preventing trafficking”. “The only legal way to manage this process is between the welcoming government and that of Ukraine,” he explained.

This declaration is produced, as explained by the entity, due to the increase in various initiatives related to the reception of Ukrainian children in care. In this way, and although the NGO highlights “the solidarity displayed by Spanish society” in response to the war, it also recalls that “private organizations are not authorized to manage these reception processes, unless they do so in collaboration with their child protection authorities themselves”.

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“There is a pressing need to follow official child protection channels because the risks inherent in the current situation are very serious and it is the only way to prevent child trafficking,” they stressed.

The organization has also explained that governments hosting these children must ensure that they receive quality alternative care that respects the standards set by the United Nations Guidelines on Alternative Care for Children.

For this reason, they say, these minors “need, in addition, maintain family and community ties“and, once the conflict is over, “the host governments must facilitate the return to their country safely and in their best interests.” “This is the commitment that is being reached with the Ukrainian authorities,” the entity warned.

Aldeas Infantiles has also pointed out that, in the case of Spain, the authority at the state level rests with the General Directorate for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, of the Ministry of Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda, which must coordinate with the Governments of the autonomous communities since the powers of the child protection system are transferred to them. In this regard, Aldeas Infantiles SOS has offered its experience and its places to collaborate with the Government and the autonomous communities in the protection of the most vulnerable: unaccompanied children and adolescents and single-parent familiesas well as to support foster families.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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