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UN officials warned this week that the war in Ukraine is wreaking havoc on children at a scale and speed not seen since World War II.
After nearly 100 days of war, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said Wednesday that 3 million children displaced inside Ukraine and more than 2.2 million children in third-party countries “are now in need of humanitarian assistance.”
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The UN has recorded that least 262 children have been killed and 415 injured in Russia’s assault since February, but the intergovernmental agency has also warned that casualty counts are expected to be significantly higher than what has been confirmed.
“On average more than two children are killed and more than four injured each day in Ukraine – mostly in attacks using explosive weapons in populated areas,” UNICEF said in a statement.
The agency said the alarming rates are down to Russian shelling that continues to target civilian buildings, including at least 256 health facilities.
One in six UNICEF-supported “Safe Schools” in eastern Ukraine – where heavy fighting continues – has been hit by artillery shelling along with “hundreds” of other schools throughout the country, the agency reported.
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But children have not only fallen victim to brutal combat operations. The Kremlin has also been forcibly deporting Ukrainians into various parts of Russia for months.
“Russia is…pursuing a consistent criminal policy of deporting our people. [It] forcibly deports both adults and children,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a late-night address Wednesday. “This is one of Russia’s most heinous war crimes.”
Zelenskyy said more than 200,000 Ukrainian children have been deported so far.
“These are orphans from orphanages. Children with parents. Children separated from their families,” he continued. “The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people, but to make deportees forget about Ukraine and not be able to return.”
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Zelenskyy estimated that 20 percent of the nation’s schools have been damaged or destroyed in the past three months.
Ukrainian officials on Thursday set a Sept. 1 deadline to try to repair or rebuild as many of the schools as possible in coordination with UNICEF.