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Statement by 50 Members of the Group of Friends of Children and the SDGs and 41 aligning countries in solidarity with the children affected by the war in Ukraine

23 March 2022 News

The members of the Group of Friends of Children and the SDGs, whose fundamental tenet is to act as champions and to advocate for the rights, lives, and well-being of all children, everywhere, and aligning countries, deplore in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and express our grave concern about its impact on all children in Ukraine.

UNICEF’s Executive Director Catherine Russell has already highlighted the unconscionable impact the conflict is having on Ukraine’s children in her briefing to the UN Security Council on 7 March 2022.We are deeply alarmed by the targeted attacks by the armed forces of the Russian Federation against children’s homes and schools as well as hospitals and orphanages, including the recent horrific attack on a hospital with maternity and children's wards in the city of Mariupol on 9 March 2022. The UN reports that, since 24 February 2022, at least 75 children have been killed and 99 children have been wounded. Countless more have been severely traumatized.

Attacks against schools and hospitals constitute one of the six grave violations committed against children during armed conflict. These deliberate attacks against civilian facilities and infrastructure have left hundreds of thousands of people without access to basic services. We are concerned that children with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are particularly at risk.

Explosive weapons and remnants of war in populated areas seriously jeopardize children’s immediate and long-term physical and psychosocial health, safety, welfare and development.

UNHCR estimates that there are already more than 3 million refugees fleeing to host countries, half of whom are children.

For those who have stayed, families are seeking shelter in subways and basements, often with little to no access to essential items for children, such as food, water, diapers and medication.

Children’s lives have been upended in a matter of hours and days. Children have been pulled out of schools and exposed to trauma by the sounds of shelling and gunfire, as well as attacks on their neighbourhoods and facilities.

No person or nation should place this burden on the shoulders of a child.

Our countries demand that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine, that it immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraws all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. Obligations under international humanitarian law and legal and moral obligations to keep children out of the line of fire must be strictly adhered to by all.

We further and fully support the humanitarian actors who are working tirelessly to ensure that vital assistance and protection is reaching the children in Ukraine. Rapid, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance for those in need in Ukraine must be guaranteed.

Finally, we demand a peaceful resolution and an end to this conflict through diplomacy, dialogue, and de-escalation. We owe this to the children in Ukraine and to all children.

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