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War must never be normalized for child victims: Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine

In remarks to commemorate the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, Denise Brown also noted that boys and girls in frontline regions have had to spend the equivalent of seven months underground in bomb shelters because of relentless attacks.

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“I will not stop repeating that the entire international community must never accept as normal what is happening in Ukraine. Children should not grow up in the middle of a war,” she said.

“War is not normal, and we must not get used to it.”

Youthful dreams deferred 

Ms. Brown said she has met many lovely, joyful and smiling children during her time in Ukraine, adding that despite the full-scale Russian invasion more than two years ago, they still feel loved and protected.

She recalled a visit last Christmas to rural Hroza, located in the Kharkiv region, where she shared chocolate and candies with local children who told her of their dreams to become a doctor or teacher someday. 

“But when I think about the children I have met, I cannot help but think of those I will never meet,” she said.

“In the same village, Hroza, there was an eight-year-old boy who was killed when a Russian missile tore apart his community on 5 October 2023. So many other children have been lost while sleeping or playing.” 

An ‘ugly’ truth 

Stressing that “the truth is shocking, and the world has to confront it”, she reported that more than 600 Ukrainian children have been killed, and 1,420 injured, since the escalation of Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

File photo of a teenage boy who was treated at a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, after being injured when the car he was travelling in ran over a landmine.
© UNICEF/Viktor Moskaliuk

File photo of a teenage boy who was treated at a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, after being injured when the car he was travelling in ran over a landmine.

“And these are only the cases that the UN has been able to verify,” she continued.  “Despite our repeated requests to access Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation, fully in line with international humanitarian law, our requests are always denied.”

She said, “the ugly truth is that the number increases almost every single day as civilian infrastructure is repeatedly hit,” recalling attacks last week in Kharkiv that hit a shopping centre, office building and park, in the space of a few minutes.

Justice must prevail 

Ms. Brown said Russia has approved and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, “but the truth is that they are blatantly disregarding what they committed to. And it is for this reason that the Secretary-General officially listed Russia for the killing and maiming of Ukrainian children in 2023.”

She upheld the UN’s commitment to support the people of Ukraine whose lives have been torn apart by the war, adding that the UN consistently documents these violations and works with the Government to provide the care these children so desperately need.  

“I know this will not alleviate the suffering of families and will never compensate for the lives lost or the grief endured,” she said. “But what happens here must be recorded in order for justice to prevail.” 

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