World Vision Canada is warning that more than 7.5 million children in Ukraine are at risk due to the war with Russia.
“This is an emerging humanitarian crisis, it’s actually getting worse by the day,” said Michael Messenger, CEO, World Vision Canada. “We know that within Ukraine, we’ve got hundreds of people killed and thousands of people wounded. Unfortunately, that includes children.”
Messenger pointed out that more than three million people were already in need of humanitarian assistance before the conflict began, but the biggest concern right now is the flow of refugees to neighbouring countries. More than one million people have already fled Ukraine.
“To give you a sense, that’s about 10 times the population of Kelowna just within a week escaping,” said Messenger. “Many of them women and children, having gone through incredible trauma and difficulty, and often with just the clothes on their back or a small suitcase.”
Of the more than 1.2 million people that have already left approximately 500,000 are children. The United Nations predicts as many as four million people could escape the country in the next few months.
“Children often bear the biggest brunt of a disaster,” added Messenger. “They are living under these conditions and are faced with mental and emotional stress. They’ve lost loved ones and families are fractured.”
As well, schools are closed, access to basic things such as food, water, accommodation have all been taken away. World Vision has deployed 45 psychologists to the border of neighbouring Romania to comfort and talk with children and families.
“So kids who often feel helpless and are so deeply dependent on others for care, often feel this the worst,” said Messenger. “That’s why our response in working with refugee families includes psychological first aid, it sits right alongside meeting some of those basic physical needs.”
Messenger is travelling to Eastern Europe in the next few days to get a first-hand look at the situation.
“My point will be to support the teams there, gather resources, and share the stories of families. That’s also to inspire Canadians to understand the situation to care and of course to give.”
World Vision is ramping up its response to help Ukraine, using staff from Romania to help meet the basic needs of children and families crossing the border. That includes food and water, hygiene, medications, and medical supplies. The organization is seeking support from Canadians who want to help with those efforts. Donations and more information about the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine can be found on the World Vision or Humanitarian Coalition websites.
“I’m a father myself,” said Messenger. “What would it mean for me as a parent to take my kids out of the situation? To scoop them up with almost nothing, and go into the unknown. That’s the situation that families are facing leaving Ukraine.”