On World Children’s Day, the Ukraine Group of Friends for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) raises the devastating effects of Russia’s war of aggression on the children of Ukraine.
The Group of Friends – active since July 2023 – has been listening as we are presented with the dire reality of children during this war. Today, we want to draw attention to this reality, speaking on behalf of children who do not have a voice as a result of Russia’s aggression.
We are appalled by persistently high levels of killing and maiming of children.
We are dismayed that almost 3,800 educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed.
Schools are under a constant threat of Russian attacks. With limited shelters in schools, children often cannot physically attend class. Frequent power cuts also lead to children not being able to study online. And, in the Ukrainian territories, temporarily occupied by Russia, students are taught Russian-imposed curriculums and are not allowed to learn in Ukrainian.
We applaud Ukraine for endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, which notes that every child has the right to education without fear of violence or attack. We therefore welcome the fact that over 95% of students are registered in the school system – a significant achievement during wartime.
We vehemently condemn the large-scale, illegal forced transfer and deportation of children to Russia or temporarily occupied territories within Ukraine. We take note of and are following the arrest warrants for Russian President Putin and Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova issued by the International Criminal Court. We urgently call on the Russian Federation to return Ukraine’s children. All violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against children must be investigated and perpetrators must be held accountable.
Children’s whereabouts need to be established and effective communication with guardians facilitated. Children need to be informed that Russian propaganda is false and that they are wanted back home. We commend those who have facilitated returns and we support further efforts to return more children.
War leaves profound physical and psychological scars. Children should receive long-term, survivor-centered and gender-responsive recovery and rehabilitation that includes mental health and trauma support and care for children with disabilities. To this end, we welcome Ukraine’s focus on family-based care.
The Group of Friends will remain engaged on child protection issues and will continue to advocate that they stay on relevant agendas, with a focus on the best interests of the child.
We stand with Ukraine as it protects its future generations.
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