Mar 3, 2022 - World

UNICEF: 500,000 children have fled Ukraine since Russia's invasion began

Picture of people crossing railroads in front of a train
Refugees arrive at the Hungarian border town of Zahony, Hungary on a train that has come from Ukraine on March 03, 2022. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

At least half a million children have become refugees in the week since Russia began its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, according to UNICEF data released on Thursday.

The big picture: UNICEF warned that the the humanitarian crisis could soon become "one of Europe’s largest refugee crises since the Second World War." Overall, more than 1 million people have fled Ukraine in the last week, according to the UN refugee agency.

  • At least 17 children have been killed and 30 injured, UNICEF said, though the agency warned that these numbers only represent those it has been able to verify and it expected that the true number of child casualties is "far higher."
  • UNICEF said that "hundreds" of homes have been damaged or destroyed, and schools, orphanages and health centers have sustained "heavy damage."
  • "Hundreds of thousands" of Ukrainian people are unable to access safe drinking water because of damage to the country's water system infrastructure, and many cannot health care, the agency added.

The agency said it working with partners to help vulnerable children and families to provide "essential services including health, education, protection, water and sanitation."

  • It is also appealing to receive $276 million to help those inside Ukraine and an additional $73 million to assist kids in neighboring countries.

What they're saying: "The use of explosive weapons in cities could quickly turn this crisis into a catastrophe for Ukraine’s children,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia.

  • “There are no armed operations of this scale that do not result in children being harmed. The consequences will be tragic," he added. "[T]he only way out of the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine is for the conflict to end."

Go deeper: The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis

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