Children in eastern Ukraine need help to overcome trauma of conflict

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On 13 February 2017, first-grade students in eastern Ukraine, including 6-year-old Sasha (in red sweater), participate in a drill to practice their response to a shelling. © UNICEF/UN053119/Zmey

Children living in two of the most conflict-affected regions in eastern Ukraine need urgent support to address the trauma of living through more than three years of violence, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said.

More than 200,000 of them require "urgent and sustained" psychosocial support, the agency urged.

They all live within 15 kilometres of the "contact line"* that divides government and non-government controlled areas and where fighting is most intense.

Dianne Penn reports.

The world has forgotten about this "invisible crisis" in eastern Ukraine, but hundreds of thousands of children are paying a heavy price, UNICEF Ukraine Representative Giovanna Barberis warned on Friday. 

The crisis there is pitting Government forces against separatist rebels. 

Children nearest the "contact-line" have been living in chronic fear and uncertainty because of sporadic shelling and dangers from landmines and other unexploded ordnance, she said. 

Parents, teachers, school directors and psychologists continue to report striking behaviour changes in children as young as three years old. 

Symptoms include severe anxiety, bed-wetting, nightmares, aggressive behaviour and withdrawing from families and communities. 

UNICEF is appealing for US$31.2 million to support children and families affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. 

So far, UNICEF has received less than a third of its funding requirements and child protection is critically underfunded. 

Dianne Penn, United Nations. 

Duration: 1'10"

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