(Source: European Commission)
The bombardment of the children’s and maternity hospital in Mariupol yesterday is the latest in a series of atrocities and crimes committed against children. This senseless and illegal war waged by the Russian Federation is taking the lives of innocent children, and this is a wound that will not heal.
Every child has a right to grow up in a peaceful and secure environment, to learn and have prospects for a better future. Children in Ukraine should be in schools and on playgrounds. Instead, they are trapped in bomb shelters, exposed to unimaginable fear and terror, with Russian missiles flying over their heads. So many thousands of those living in eastern Ukraine have already been through such suffering since 2014.
Let us not forget the children who have been forced to escape the aggression and leave everything behind. More than 2 million people have fled the atrocious attacks launched by the Putin Regime. Half of them are children. These children have been ripped out of their homes, of their schools or childcare, they are stranded in foreign countries, they are traumatised, they have no immediate access to learning.
The ones most at risk are the unaccompanied children who have been separated from their parents in the midst of this chaos, or orphaned, as well as those with disabilities and in institutions, who are often impeded from seeking shelter or being evacuated. All children must be protected in Ukraine, provided with a safe haven, including indiscriminate access to basic and life-saving services and education.
We remind Russia that even wars have rules, and these rules are not optional. Stop targeting civilians. Stop targeting their infrastructure. Stop bombing schools and childcare facilities. Children should not pay for this war with their lives. International humanitarian law must be upheld, the universal rights of the child be respected and safeguarded.
Genuine humanitarian corridors must be established to evacuate the most vulnerable, including children trapped in the besieged cities. Surrounded by Russian forces and with key infrastructure destroyed in bombings, people have no access to running water, electricity and heating. With temperatures expected to drop even lower, we must allow the children of Ukraine to flee to safety, and offer them warmth, food and protection.
The devastating consequences of this needless war will haunt us in the years to come. We are not only witnessing a loss of lives, but also a loss of futures. We urge Russia to stop this war now, so no more children have to die. The world is watching and history will remember.