Putting up a human shield made up of women and children in front of State oppressors to prevent them from carrying out massacres has been a well known strategy used by defenders. Such a method of reaction to an oppressive regime is often employed to make the State authorities relent and stop harming the most vulnerable sections of society. What is now happening in Ukraine is indescribable. Children there are being slaughtered, shelled or traumatised by invading Russian troops even when they are not being used as shields. They are under attack no matter whether they are in hospitals or their homes. Russia, of course, claims Ukraine is placing its weaponry before children’s hospitals to launch attacks on Russian troops. The UNICEF has warned March 28 that child casualties are expected to rise in Ukraine as fighting following the Russian invasion has reached densely populated areas across the country.
The constraints humanitarian workers are facing and the rapidly shifting front lines are hampering the delivery of life-saving aid, said a worried UNICEF’s executive director, Catherine Russell.
Briefing the UN Security Council, she described the plight of Ukrainian children as ‘a moral outrage’. She took stock of the plight of these children since Russia took Crimea over in 2014 and put up its own men in charge of the eastern parts of Ukraine till the ongoing invasion. She warned that the escalation of hostilities poses an immediate threat to eight million youngsters who have already suffered profound and lasting harm. The UN has recorded 1,207 civilian casualties in Ukraine since the war began February 24. Of those, at least 27 are children and about 42 youngsters have been wounded. One month of war in Ukraine has led to the displacement of 4.3 million children – more than half of the country’s estimated 7.5 million child population. This includes more than 1.8 million children who have crossed into neighbouring countries as refugees and 2.5 million who are now internally displaced inside Ukraine.
The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacement of children since World War II, UNICEF has noted. Incalculable harm is being done to these children who would grow up without being able to shake off the trauma they are going through now. Children’s safety, wellbeing and access to essential services are all under threat from the war. As the armed conflict shows no sign of let-up, the human costs are increasing exponentially by the day. Reports indicate children are being taken out of schools and from their homes at a moment’s notice to escape the bombing or shelling. The trauma they are going through as they hear the terrifying sounds of shelling and gunfire cannot be easily imagined by people in India. Homes, schools, orphanages and hospitals are also said to be coming under attack and civilian infrastructure such as water supplies and sanitation facilities are being indiscriminately hit. The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis can be gauged from the fact that families are seeking safety in shelters, subways or basements, while women are giving birth in makeshift maternity wards with limited medical supplies. According to a report, most stores are closed making it difficult for people to buy essential items, including basic necessities for children such as diapers and medicines. Even when stores open, most people are too afraid to leave their homes because of continuous shelling.
The top priority looming large before the world community should be to minimise the humanitarian cost of the ongoing war. France and Mexico have initiated discussions among some member countries in the United Nations on a draft resolution addressing the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. The report that 100 refugees are crossing into Poland every minute is cause for grave concern. The war has already wreaked havoc on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and access to basic services. World Health Organisation has reported 52 attacks affecting healthcare facilities across the country over the last four weeks. An estimated 1.4 million people now lack access to water, while 4.6 million people have limited access to water or are at risk of being cut off. Over 450,000 children aged 6 to 23 months need complimentary food support. There are reports of reduction in vaccination coverage for routine and childhood immunisations, including measles and polio. This could quickly lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, especially in overcrowded areas where people are sheltering from the violence.
The human tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine is the outcome of the war-mongering attitude of Russia’s Vladimir Putin as much as the vacillation of the West and the USA in according NATO member status to Ukraine.
This has been used by Russia as a ruse for its invasion and relentless attacks on civilians.
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