Nearly 7 million Ukrainian children at risk due to Russian attacks on energy infrastructure: UNICEF
Russia’s persistent attacks on Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure have left nearly 7 million children at risk this winter, UNICEF warned on Wednesday.
Almost every Ukrainian child lacks sustained access to electricity, heating and water — conditions that threaten health and safety as seasonal temperatures continue to plunge, according to UNICEF.
“Millions of children are facing a bleak winter huddled in the cold and the dark, with little idea of how or when respite may arrive,” Catherine Russell, executive director of UNICEF, said in a statement.
Winter temperatures in Ukraine can drop to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit or below, exposing residents to extreme cold, the United Nations agency stated.
Without electricity, children will also be unable to access online learning opportunities, which became a primary source of education after so many schools were damaged or destroyed, according to UNICEF.
Medical facilities may also fail to provide critical services, while malfunctioning water systems could increase the already high risks of contracting pneumonia, seasonal flu, waterborne diseases and COVID-19, the agency warned.
“Beyond the immediate threats the freezing conditions bring, children are also deprived of the ability to learn or stay connected with friends and family, putting both their physical and their mental health at desperate risk,” Russell said.
Intensified Russian attacks in October ravaged 40 percent of Ukraine’s power production. By the end of November, the Ukrainian energy system was still only able to cover 70 percent of peak demand, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
While nearly all of Ukraine’s children are at risk, the situation remains especially acute for 1.2 million children and for 6.5 million individuals of all ages, UNICEF stated.
About 1.5 million children are at risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health issues, the agency added.
Russell called for the safekeeping of both children and civilian infrastructure, stressing that humanitarian agencies must have “rapid and unimpeded access to children and families in need of humanitarian assistance no matter where they are.”
“The rules of war are clear — children and the essential civilian infrastructure they rely on to survive must be protected,” Russell added.
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