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THE WAR in Ukraine is a “child rights crisis” where education is under attack, nearly 100 youngsters have been killed in just the last month, and millions more have been forced to flee their homes, the UN children’s agency said on Thursday.
Unicef deputy executive director Omar Abdi told the UN security council that children are paying “an unconscionably high price” in the war, with 239 confirmed killed and 355 wounded since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. He said the actual numbers are much higher.
“These attacks must stop,” he said. “Ultimately, children need an end to this war — their futures hang in the balance.”
Mr Abdi said the school year came to a standstill after Russia invaded its smaller neighbour, and as of last week at least 15 of 89 Unicef-supported schools in the country’s east had been damaged or destroyed in the fighting.
“Hundreds of schools across the country are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, air strikes and other explosive weapons in populated areas, while other schools are being used as information centres, shelters, supply hubs, or for military purposes — with long-term impact on children’s return to education,” Mr Abdi said.
In mid-March, over 15,000 schools resumed education in Ukraine, mostly through remote learning or in-person hybrid options, he said.
“It is estimated that 3.7 million children in Ukraine and abroad are using online and distance learning options.”
But, Mr Abdi said, “enormous obstacles” to education remain, including school availability, resources, language barriers and movement of children and their families.
Less than 5 per cent of refugee pre-school children are estimated to be enrolled in public kindergartens, he said.
Mr Abdi and many council members spoke about what he called a horrifying attack on a school in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bilohorivka last weekend, when a bomb hit while women and children sheltered in the building.
In Kiev, meanwhile, a 21-year-old Russian soldier went on trial yesterday for the killing of an unarmed civilian, marking the first time a member of the Russian military has been prosecuted for a war crime during the 11-week conflict.
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