A destroyed school building in Zhytomyr, Ukraine A destroyed school building in Zhytomyr, Ukraine  (VIACHESLAV RATYNSKYI)

War in Ukraine puts children at risk worldwide

Some of the world's leading Children's Organisations are warning of the terrible consequences the war in Ukraine could have on children in Ukraine around the world.

By Francesca Merlo

In just one week, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February, at least 17 children have been killed and 30 more injured. Unfortunately, according to a statement released on Thursday by UNICEF, these numbers are based only on the reports that the United Nations has been able to verify, and "the true number of casualties among children is probably much higher". 

There are millions of children who could be caught up in the violence, warns UNICEF, as fighting intensifies in the country's major urban cities. It explains that "children are particularly at risk of being injured or killed when explosive weapons and ammunition are used in populated areas".  

Years of necessity

In a separate statement, Save the Children, warns that as fighting intensifies in the major urban cities, children in Eastern Ukraine, "have already endured shelling and violence for the last eight years". Some of these have known nothing but war, and many have been displaced from their homes. Save the Children highlights the heartbreaking number of people, and especially children, in need of humanitarian assistance by noting that even before the Russian invasion, 2.9 million people in Ukraine were in need of humanitarian assistance, including 400,000 children.

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The conflict has also triggered a massive population displacement and UNICEF warns that it could soon become one of the biggest refugee crises in Europe since the Second World War. "Half a million children have already fled from Ukraine to neighbouring countries, and the number of refugees continues to grow", it writes, adding that "homes, schools, and orphanages" are among the buildings damaged by the war. 

Tragic consequences

"There are no armed operations of this scale that do not cause harm to children", noted Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. "The use of explosive weapons in cities could quickly turn this crisis into a catastrophe for the children of Ukraine", he added, saying "the consequences will be tragic".


The consequences will be tragic not only for the children of Ukraine, as Save the Children has warned of the risks that skyrocketing wheat prices could have in some of the world's most fragile contexts such as Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

In its statement, the child rights organization calls for an immediate end to the violence, "not only to protect children in Ukraine but also to prevent further escalation of what is already the worst global hunger crisis this century".

It explains that In Yemen, where 95% of wheat is imported, including more than 30% from Russia and Ukraine, wheat and bread make up over half the calorie intake for the average household. In Yemen, where a war has been raging for over seven years, over half the population face acute hunger, and 8 million children are already on the brink of famine, according to the World Food Programme.

A worker carries a sack of wheat flour outside a food shop in Sanaa, Yemen
A worker carries a sack of wheat flour outside a food shop in Sanaa, Yemen

In Lebanon, Save the Children writes that up to 80% of wheat imports come from Russia and Ukraine. "Only about one month's worth of wheat can be stored at a time in existing mills as a result of the August 2020 blast in Beirut’s port that destroyed the country's major grain silos and killed over 200 people", the organization notes. Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Country Director for Lebanon, said, It’s not an exaggeration to say that in Lebanon, children’s survival is hanging by a thread. The wheat imported from Ukraine is a vital lifeline – cutting this off will doubtlessly push families here to the brink”.

Men load sacks of wheat flour into pick-up trucks at a mill in Beirut, Lebanon
Men load sacks of wheat flour into pick-up trucks at a mill in Beirut, Lebanon

Support for children

In light of the harsh realities surrounding Ukraine, Save the Children and UNICEF, along with other children's funds and non-governmental organizations warn of the dangers conflict can have on children, and renew their appeal to the higher powers to put an immediate stop to violence, in all forms, and in all parts of the world.

04 March 2022, 09:45