Children in orphanages and institutions in Ukraine are at risk of being left behind or further separated from family members, a humanitarian organisation has warned.
Save the Children says Ukraine has one of the highest rates of institutional care in Europe.
Around 100,000 children — 1.3% of Ukrainian children — live in an orphanage or institution such as a children’s care home or boarding school for orphans, according to UNICEF.
“Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has triggered a million children to flee, but the majority of children in institutional care remain trapped in the country,” said Irina Saghoyan, Save the Children’s Eastern Europe Director in a statement.
“These children are some of the most vulnerable in Ukraine and face a heightened risk of trafficking, abuse and other forms of exploitation.”
Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, sparking a humanitarian crisis with more than 2.5 million people fleeing the country, according to the UN’s refugee agency.
Men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been drafted as reservists, so it’s mostly women and children who are fleeing to neighbouring countries.
Save the Children warned that children in orphanages won’t be able to access care as the violence escalates in the country.
The organisation called on governments to make an effort to protect children, ensuring that those without caregivers can access housing, health care and other support.
They are working to reunite children with extended family in friends in Ukraine, Poland and other countries.
Some organisations have worked to relocate these children; around 100 Jewish Ukrainian orphans arrived in Israel last week with the help of a Jewish fund.
But Save The Children warns that many of these at-risk youngsters remain in the country amid fears that Russia will continue targeting civilian infrastructure.