The war in Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022, continues to have severe consequences for children. Many of them have been injured, are scared or struggling with mental health problems.
Displacement, destruction and violence
The infrastructure on which the children depend has been damaged or destroyed. This includes health centres, schools and water and sewerage systems. Almost two thirds of the children had to flee their homes, either within Ukraine or to neighbouring or other host countries. Many of them were killed or injured, especially in attacks on residential areas.
Destruction of Kakhovka Dam
And as if the situation was not bad enough, the dam in Kakhovka was destroyed on June 6, 2023. As a result, numerous villages were flooded and around 16,000 people had to be evacuated – they too lost their homes due to the war. In addition, there is the risk posed by the mines that are washed around freely by the water masses.
Great danger due to mines
In general, the mines and explosives, with which a third of the country is contaminated, represent a major danger. After 9 years of fighting in the east of the country and more than a year of war, Ukraine is now one of the most mined countries in the world.
Countless children like Vladislav face dangers that no child should ever be exposed to.
Vladislav, 8, was wounded by shrapnel while going for a walk. “My friends and I were playing and spotted a tank. We got closer and saw a small cartridge, so we lit a fire to throw it into it. And it exploded.”
He underwent surgery in hospital, but the doctors could not remove the fragment. He was lucky: although the piece is still stuck in his shoulder, he can move his arm freely. But not all children are that fortunate. Many people are killed by mines or suffer lifelong disabilities.
Trauma and fear as a result of the violence
Yet the wounds inflicted by this cruel war are not always visible. The children are traumatised by the violence. They are scared or in a state of shock and need security, stability, protection and psychosocial support. It is now important to give them a sense of normalcy and restore a piece of childhood.
UNICEF offers safety and distraction to children
A safe space to be a child
18-month-old Damir from Kharkiv, together with his mother and two brothers, had to flee and was really lucky. His mother later found out that their home had been under shelling. At the SPILNO spot in Zakarpattia, he found urgently needed security and the opportunity to play and distract himself.
Shortly after the outbreak of the war last year, UNICEF set up the first so-called “SPILNO spot” for children. The aim was to quickly provide the children with a safe space where they could play and distract themselves. This should help them to leave the experience behind them as far as possible.
Since then, UNICEF and its partners have opened more than 150 SPILNO spots in 20 different regions across the country. Each of them is unique. Yet everywhere, support, love and security are given top priority. After all, they all pursue the same goal: to restore a piece of childhood to the children in these violence-ridden times. Because every child deserves a childhood.