Photo Credit: Daily Mail
Ukrainian people feared every day Russia could invade, and that fear unfortunately became reality. Media coverage primarily discusses military action and geopolitical consequences, sidelining other groups. The impact of Russian aggression on civilians, especially children, should be a larger part of the discussion on security. The human impact in this conflict needs to be at the forefront of discussion and foreign policy exchange. How will this conflict further impact children living in Ukraine? What is life now like for Ukrainians? These questions must be considered.
The ongoing threat of Russian aggression will severely impact the children growing up in Ukraine. Parents must have very difficult conversations with their children about what is happening with Russia. Some even sent their children to school with blood-type information. This generation of children, especially those living in eastern Ukraine, grapple with the absence of peace. As of March 6, reports indicate that at least 38 child fatalities and 71 injuries in this conflict. These atrocities are acts of pure evil. One confirmed death, a primary school aged student named Polina, was shot to death by Russian saboteurs. These tragedies are unthinkable, but often go under reported.
It is important to remember that this conflict will have a generational impact on Ukrainian children. This creates an emotional divide between the people of Ukraine and Russia. Due to Russia’s actions, children “as young as four” are becoming familiar with military training. Ukrainian children are living under Russian aggression and the horrors of war. Their childhood is forever altered.
Education for many is severely impacted by the conflict. UNICEF reports that “more than 750 schools have been damaged since” 2014. This number is likely to increase as Russian forces continue to destroy Ukrainian infrastructure. In Kharkiv, children are taught safety precautions in school because of the invasion. While it is important for children to be educated and aware of what is happening, the stress is overwhelming. This has long-term effects on how children see the world and how these children will view Russia.
Not only does Russian armed conflict affect children’s education, but it affects their mental health and well-being. One child living in Ukraine, Afina, “developed diabetes as a result of conflict-related stress.” Afina’s story is just one of many. And now with the immediate news that President Putin invaded Ukraine, stories like Afina’s will continue.
In addition, Putin’s decision to invade caused many people and families to flee Ukraine. This is traumatizing for children who do not fully comprehend what is going on or why they must leave their home and friends. Their lifestyles are drastically changing, and it is because of the decisions made by the Russian government.
So, what must be done? The U.S. and its European allies must continue to work together to find effective solutions to help Ukraine. The U.S. is offering monetary assistance, such as President Biden authorizing an additional $350 million to Ukraine for weapons. Furthermore, the U.S. and NATO must keep communication open as this crisis impacts Europe as a whole. In addition, there must be a multilateral response from organizations such as the United Nations and UNICEF that specifically implement programs and provide resources for children living in Ukraine. UNICEF is providing resources such as water and health supplies for children who are impacted. No organization or country can support Ukraine alone; it should be a joint effort across the international community. We must remember that the results of foreign policy influence people’s everyday lives, especially the lives of children. Children are in physical and psychological harm. Yet, the will of the Ukrainian people is strong. Ukraine will not back down. They will continue to fight and fight for the children suffering under this nightmare. Living under Russian aggression is unfortunately the sad reality for the people of Ukraine. Not only does Russia threaten the existence of democracy and peace, but it severely impacts the lives of Ukrainian people.