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More than 4.3 million Ukrainian children — over half of the estimated 7.5 million children in the country — have been displaced due to Russia‘s war, according to the U.N.
The 4.3 million figure represents more than 1.8 million refugee children who have crossed into neighboring countries and 2.5 million children who are internally displaced within Ukraine.
“The war has caused one of the fastest largescale displacements of children since World War II,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a Thursday statement. “This is a grim milestone that could have lasting consequences for generations to come. Children’s safety, wellbeing and access to essential services are all under threat from non-stop horrific violence.”
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The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that 81 children have been killed and 108 have been injured since Russian military forces invaded on Feb. 24., though that figure may be higher.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Russian forces have executed 52 attacks against Ukrainian health care facilities over the last four weeks, and the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science estimates damage to more than 500 education facilities. More than 450,000 Ukrainian children are in need of food and other support, according to UNICEF.
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“In just a few weeks, the war has wrought such devastation for Ukraine’s children,” said Russell. “Children urgently need peace and protection. They need their rights. UNICEF continues to appeal for an immediate cease-fire and for the protection of children from harm. Essential infrastructure on which children depend, including hospitals, schools and buildings sheltering civilians, must never come under attack.”
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UNICEF has so far delivered medical supplies and other necessities to 49 hospitals in nine regions across Ukraine, benefiting some 400,000 people.
More than 3.6 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Feb. 24, with most fleeing to Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary and Russia.