UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. children’s agency says nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since Russia’s invasion, and the United Nations has verified that 142 children have been killed and 229 injured though these numbers are likely much higher.
Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s emergency programs director who returned from Ukraine last week, told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that of the 3.2 million children estimated to have remained in their homes “nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food,” and attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages have left an estimated 1.4 million people in the country without access to water.
He said the situation is worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson in the south, which have been besieged by Russian forces where children and their families have spent weeks without running water, sanitation or a regular supply of food.
“Hundreds of schools and educational facilities have been attacked or used for military purposes,” Fontaine said. “Others are serving as shelters for civilians.”
He said school closings are affecting the education of 5.7 million school-age children and 1.5 million students in higher education.
Russia’s war to shrink Ukraine economy 45%
The World Bank says Ukraine’s economy will shrink by 45.1% this year because of Russia’s invasion, which has shut down half of the country’s businesses, choked off imports and exports, and damaged a vast amount of critical infrastructure.
Unprecedented sanctions imposed by Western allies in response to the war, meanwhile, are plunging Russia into a deep recession, lopping off more than a tenth of its economic growth, the World Bank said in a report Sunday.
The war is set to inflict twice the amount of economic damage across Europe and Central Asia that the COVID-19 pandemic did, the Washington-based lender said in its “War in the Region” economic report.
“The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis unleashed by the war is staggering,” said Anna Bjerde, the World Bank’s vice president for the Europe and Central Asia region. “The Russian invasion is delivering a massive blow to Ukraine’s economy and it has inflicted enormous damage to infrastructure.”
The report said economic activity is impossible in “large swathes of areas” in Ukraine because productive infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports and train tracks have been destroyed.
Ukraine plays a major role as a global supplier of agricultural exports like wheat but that’s in question now because planting and harvesting have been disrupted by the war, the report said. The war has cut off access to the Black Sea, a key route for exports, including 90% of Ukraine’s grain shipments, it said.
The World Bank said the humanitarian catastrophe will be the biggest shockwave from the war and likely its most enduring legacy, as the wave of refugees fleeing Ukraine is “anticipated to dwarf previous crises.”
More than 4 million people have fled Ukraine, with more than half going to Poland and others heading to countries like Moldova, Romania and Hungary. An additional 6.5 million have been displaced internally. Those numbers are expected to swell as the war drags on, the World Bank said.