Millions of people are fleeing terror in Ukraine. Most of them are children. Wars and disasters make children vulnerable. Families are at risk of being torn apart, children are left alone without adults to protect them in an environment turned into chaos. Some leave home with a parent. Some are forced to flee without a safe adult to hold their hand and others loses theirs way along the way.
Many children were particularly vulnerable even before the war began, not least the 98,000 children who lived in orphanages before the invasion and who now risk facing the war on their own as staff flee or is relocated. It is with great concern that we see how this makes children easy victims of abuse, exploitation and trafficking. In the current emergency, the focus is on evacuation and emergency relief. The safety and protection of children must be part of this from the very beginning. To ensure that relief efforts do not contribute to further trauma and risk, we need to start from three fundamental questions:
Who is the child?
Ensure identification and registration of children who flee. Without registration, there is no trace if a child goes missing or is separated from his or her relatives. All assistance needs to be coordinated with the responsible authorities.
Who is the child safe with?
The most important thing for children is to be with their siblings and parents. If they are separated, every effort should be made to reunite the family. Placement in orphanages and adoption in a disaster situation risks losing children forever. Children who flee and have experienced traumatic events need close, lasting relationships with adults with whom they feel safe. This is best provided by relatives and others who know the children and speak the same language. When parents and other relatives are themselves in crisis, they need to be supported. For many, a stable and normalised everyday life with space for play and closeness is enough to begin to heal. Those children who need it must be given professional trauma support.
What does the child want?
Children need to understand what is happening and to be able to influence their own situation as much as possible. It is the responsibility of adults to listen to the child and make sense of what is happening.
For more information, please contact:
Charles Mingo Bennström, Press and PR , World Childhood Foundation
+46 (0) 73-422 04 42, firstname.lastname@example.org