UN officials say Ukraine children, women need more protection

  • Director of the UN women’s agency says there have been increased reports of sexual violence since the Russian invasion
  • Children are at risk of famine, especially those in Mariupol, where many have gone weeks without running water, sanitation and medical care
Agence France-Presse |

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Children walk in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 8, 2022. Local authorities told The Associated Press that at least 16 children were among the hundreds of people killed in Bucha. Photo: AP

Top officials at the United Nations (UN) called on Monday for both an investigation into Russia’s violence against women during its invasion of Ukraine, and the protection of children in the conflict.

“This war must stop. Now,” Sima Bahous, director of the UN women’s agency, told a meeting of the Security Council in New York.

“We are increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence. These allegations must be independently investigated to ensure justice and accountability.”

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Bahous, who recently returned from a trip to the region, said the combination of “mass displacement with the large presence of conscripts and mercenaries, and the brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians, has raised all red flags.”

It was not clear if the Security Council, on which Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member, would agree to any investigation.

Manuel Fontaine, director of emergency programmes at UNICEF, also called for an end to the war and warned of the risk to children of famine.

Flowers placed on the rubble of a destroyed apartment building in Donetsk, Ukraine. Photo: EPA-EFE

“Of the 3.2 million children estimated to have remained in their homes, nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food,” he told the council.

“The situation is even worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson, where children and their families have now gone weeks without running water and sanitation services, a regular supply of food, and medical care.”

Before the meeting, Mona Juul, Norway’s ambassador to the UN, raised the war’s impact on education for many Ukrainian children.

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“According to the UN, 5.7 million children have been affected by the nationwide closure of education facilities,” she told reporters.

“Schools are important, not only for the sake of education – but for protecting children: from violence, sexual abuse, and even trafficking.”

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“Children are innocent. Always. Stop killing them. Stop destroying their future. Stop the war,” the Norwegian diplomat said.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but has been met with an unexpectedly strong Ukrainian resistance and unprecedented sanctions and aid from Western nations.

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