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In recent weeks, some 800,000 children have fled Ukraine and a growing number are arriving to other countries “alone and without family support,” which is generating “a child protection crisis,” Save the Children, the non-governmental organization, said Tuesday.
As more than two million refugees are now arriving as a result of the Russian invasion, the NGO calls on border authorities and humanitarian agencies to “adopt measures to keep children with their main caregivers”, “provide psychological support” and introduce “programs to prevent separation”.
These services must include “child friendly spaces, child friendly information, family, localization and reunification with their families, and maternal health support,” they pointed out in a statement.
Save the Children says reports from the border suggest some children, many of them under 14, “arrive unaccompanied after being sent by family members who were unable to leave Ukraine” but that they wanted “their children to be safe” from the war.
Other minors have been separated from their relatives “during the chaos of fleeing their homes” and they all show signs of distress and psychological trauma, they warned.
“Parents resort to desperate and heartbreaking measures to protect their children,” such as sending them with neighbors and friends abroad while they stay with elderly people or to protect their homes,” Irina Saghoyan, director for the organization’s Eastern Europe sector, declared.
Saghoyan warns that the separation can lead to “profound psychological stress due to uncertainty, fear about the situation of their relatives and the anxiety anxiety due to the separation”. At the same time, “the risk of violence, exploitation, child trafficking and abuse,” increases, she warns.
“All efforts must be made to prevent the separation of children from their caregivers and to ensure immediate family reunification when this happens,” Saghoyan added.
Present in Ukraine since the 2014 Crimean War, Save the Children is now working with other agencies to “establish procedures for locating and reuniting children with their families in Poland and neighboring countries, as well as protection and complaint reporting mechanisms.