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Thousands of children out of school after classrooms hit by heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine

2017-02-06

Kyiv/Geneva, 6 February 2017 – Thousands of children have been forced out of school in eastern Ukraine due to last week’s surge in fighting. At least five schools and two kindergartens have been damaged by heavy shelling and 11 other schools have had to close, according to humanitarian organizations supporting the emergency education response in Ukraine.

More than 2,600 children from 13 schools in government-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine have been affected by the sharp escalation in fighting, along with hundreds more from schools in non-government controlled areas. In the town of Avdiivka, seven schools and kindergartens remain shut, with almost 1,400 children out of school. Families in Avdiivka and other villages in the area are afraid of sending their children to the schools that remain open, due to the heavy fighting and fears of unexploded ordnance in the streets.

UNICEF and Save the Children strongly condemn the indiscriminate shelling of schools, and call for all sides to immediately recommit to the ceasefire signed in Minsk in August 2015. The organizations urge all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and ensure that schools and other civilian infrastructure are never attacked or in the line of fire.

Michele Cecere, Save the Children’s Representative in Ukraine, said: “Schools being shelled has tragically become commonplace in this conflict. There are reports of large numbers of unexploded ordnance in the streets, putting children at enormous risk when going to school, even when they can reopen. It’s vital that children can get safely back to school as soon as possible so they don’t miss out on any more learning.”

Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF’s Representative in Ukraine, said: “The shelling of schools, the one place where children find safety and normalcy during conflict, is unacceptable and has to stop. Children in eastern Ukraine have suffered enough and we must ensure that they have safe spaces to seek solace and support.”

The latest closure of schools has worsened the ongoing education crisis already affecting more than 600,000 children in eastern Ukraine. After nearly three years of conflict, more than 740 school – one in five – have been damaged or destroyed, resulting in girls and boys missing many months of schooling due to displacement and the effects of conflict. 

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About Save the Children

Save the Children works to deliver change for children in around 120 countries. We launched a direct emergency response in Ukraine in 2014 as a result of the crisis, and are delivering essential humanitarian aid, helping children access education and setting up centres to help children overcome their experiences through psychosocial support. 

For more information about Save the Children, visit www.savethechildren.net   

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About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.

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