1 March 2022 - Ukraine

Ukraine: Children in grave danger of blast injuries as Russian convoy closes in

 Children injured in conflict zones are at even greater risk than adults due to their specific vulnerabilities and treatment needs for blast wounds, said Save the Children calling for an immediate end to violence in Ukraine as Russia’s military operation intensifies in major cities. 

At least 14 children have already been killed, according to the UN, with fears that many more lives are at risk as a satellite picture reveals a Russian military convoy about 40 miles long is closing in on Kyiv.   

Children are in grave danger, especially from the threat of explosive weapons. Younger children injured in blasts are particularly at risk of death compared to adults and need to be treated differently. Children have weaker necks and torsos than adults, so less force is needed to cause a brain injury. In warzones, head injuries are common in young children, with patients under seven years old twice as likely to present a head injury than those over seven years.   

Across Kyiv, the city’s three million residents are taking refuge in basements, metro stations and bomb shelters, unable to leave their homes due to the active fighting in the capital. Patients in maternity wards and children’s hospitals are also hiding for their lives underground with little light and limited access to medicine, clean water and food.  

On Monday, heavy shelling in Kharkiv killed three children according to the city’s mayor, and a six-year-old girl died  in an attack at the port of Mariupol on Sunday, who medics could not save. 

In conflict zones, even trained medical staff such as surgeons, nurses and therapists can lack the emergency medical training and expertise they need to treat children. Health facilities and medical teams operating in conflict zones are often overwhelmed and under-resourced. 

Save the Children, in partnership with Imperial College London and medical experts, developed a comprehensive manual - the first of its kind - to support children injured in conflict. The manual helps medical teams in conflict zones, who are often forced to operate on and treat children in difficult circumstances with limited specialist training and resources in how to do so.  

James Denselow, Head of Conflict and Humanitarian at Save the Children UK, said: 

“Over the past six days, children in Ukraine have watched their homes and schools be destroyed, been forced to flee or hide in basements and bomb shelters, and have been torn apart from their families and friends.

“We are seeing videos of children singing from shelters to keep their spirits up. No child should ever be put in this situation. These children should be in school or playing outside, but instead, they are fearing for their lives. These children need urgent protection and for the Russian military operation to stop immediately.  

“The situation is spiraling out of control. If the conflict escalates further, we fear the death toll for children will continue to rise substantially in the coming days and even hours.” 

Save the Children has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, delivering essential humanitarian aid to children and their families. This includes supporting their access to education, providing psychosocial support, distributing winter kits and hygiene kits, and providing cash grants to families so they can meet basic needs such as food, rent and medicines, or so they can invest in new businesses.  

The Children Emergency Fund allows Save the Children to respond wherever the need is greatest to reach children quickly with the essentials they need to survive. 

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