UNICEF launches €400 million appeal to help Ukrainian civilians, children

The Portuguese government is granting temporary protection to people coming from Ukraine due to the war. [DAREK DELMANOWICZ/EPA]

The UN’s Children’s Fund UNICEF estimates that it will need €400 million over the next three months to help civilians, especially children, in Ukraine, though its teams continue to face logistical problems delivering aid to the field. EURACTIV France reports.

More than half of the one million Ukrainian refugees are children, according to Philippe Cori, UNICEF’s Deputy Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. Those leaving Ukraine are mostly women and children.

“The situation for children in Ukraine is getting worse by the minute. Children are being killed and injured. 7.5 million children are at risk,” Cori warned at a press conference in Paris on Thursday (3 March).

To provide effective humanitarian aid, the UN agency has launched a call for donations worth €400 million for Ukrainian families and children. The funds will mainly be used to finance medicines, medical equipment and hygiene kits.

On the ground, UNICEF teams are working closely with local municipalities, which, according to Cori, are an “effective relay”. Cori also praised the local authorities for their “immense courage despite the danger”.

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Blue points

Reception facilities, known as “blue points”, have been set up in Ukraine and on the borders of neighbouring countries, including Poland, Romania, Moldova and the Czech Republic.

At these blue points, civilians are given hygiene kits, water, food and medicine. These facilities also have psychologists on hand to “support traumatised children”. Psychologists are also offering help along Ukrainian roads.

So far, over thirty blue points and thirteen mobile teams have been deployed on Ukrainian territory and in border countries.

The Russian army continues to bomb hospitals, schools and orphanages.

The maternity ward of the hospital in the country’s second-largest city Kharkiv was evacuated on Tuesday (1 March) following threats of Russian bombings. Like many health services, it was moved underground to a bomb shelter.

“We have to stop targeting schools, maternity wards, hospitals and orphanages. Women are giving birth in bunkers, children are being vaccinated underground”, warned Cori. “We have reached an intensity of conflict that is becoming unacceptable,” he added.

Shortly before the conflict started, Ukraine was hit by a polio outbreak, which led to a massive vaccination campaign among children. However, with war threatening the provision of electricity and because “without electricity, we cannot vaccinate”, Cori says he is “very concerned”.

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Delivering aid

UNICEF teams have been working in Ukraine for over eight years, but the war that has been raging for more than a week now is without precedent. “We talked about it, but we didn’t believe it,” said Cori, who has visited the region many times.

Since Russia attacked Ukraine, international aid has been pouring in. France, for instance, has sent 33 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Poland for Ukrainians, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Monday (28 February), adding that another 30 tonnes of aid would be sent to Moldova within the week.

On Tuesday (1 March), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the funding of a €500 million aid programme to help civilians affected by the war in Ukraine.

Logistical problems

However, UNICEF teams are facing logistical problems on the ground that prevent them from delivering all the donations of medicines, medical equipment and hygiene kits.

Many roads are blocked or destroyed, while finding drivers willing to drive their trucks to bring donations to the teams in the field is also complicated.

To ensure humanitarian aid is as effective as possible, UNICEF is inviting all those wishing to make a donation to make it a financial one, rather than material. UNICEF has explained that it is better to centralise financial aid to then use it in the best possible way.

Since the Russian invasion started on 24 February, at least 13 children have been killed, while many have been injured, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell has said. “We fear that number will rise,” she told a news conference in New York on Tuesday (1 March).

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According …

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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