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By UNICEF Australia
17 March 2022

Yuliya gently rocks her newborn baby in the basement of a medical centre in Kyiv. Vera is only days old, but her life is already in danger.

“We’re sitting here in the basement, we’ve been crying,” Yuliya says. “It’s terrifying to see smoke and shelling. We’re doing everything we can to save our children.”  

It took Yuliya two days traveling on foot from her home outside Kyiv before she reached the safety of this health centre. There were moments when she thought she might not make it here at all amid the shelling and explosions that have rocked the area. 

“I had to travel across fields and through forests,” she says, adding that due to certain health issues, not every facility would have been able to help her safely deliver her child. “But thanks to God and the doctors, I now have a baby – and I’m alive.” 

Since the start of the war, there have been 235 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine, according to the WHO. Facilities have been damaged or destroyed. Children have been injured or lost their lives.   

UNICEF is doing everything it can to respond to the urgent needs of children and families inside Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. 

You can help send life-saving supplies to children and families in need. Make a tax-deductible donation to UNICEF Australia before 30 June.

Hospital beds in the basement
The basement of this health centre in Kyiv is being used to care for mothers and their families.
© UNICEF/UN0604232/Ratushniak

Yuliya is just one of the many women and children who have found shelter at the centre, the basement of which has been turned into a makeshift maternity ward. Most of the women here only leave the basement when they need to – to wash or get something to eat.  

But the last time Yuliya left the basement, she saw smoke and heard explosions outside. She’s now afraid to leave her daughter alone in the basement for fear of becoming separated. 

Nataliya, the centre director, says the situation has been extremely difficult for families. “It’s impossible to be prepared for this,” she says. “It’s extremely cold and dark, and there are no power outlets down here.”   

Medical staff at the centre are working under intense pressure, delivering children despite the shelling outside and often working without a stable power supply. Some staff have already left with their families. As a result, Nataliya and her remaining colleagues have taken on multiple roles.  

“I work as a cook, a regular doctor and a surgeon,” she says. “But it’s our responsibility to be here and make sure that the centre is operational.” 

Babies in cots in a makeshift maternity clinic
Two newborn babies being cared for at a makeshift maternity clinic in Ukraine.
© UNICEF/UN0604217/Ratushniak

Despite the ongoing violence, UNICEF is on the ground in Ukraine delivering urgently needed supplies and ensuring that families can receive the treatment they need.  

Our teams have reached more than 719,000 people with life-saving medical supplies, such as midwifery kits and essential medicines, in hospitals and maternity centres across the country. 

“We’ve received oxygen concentrators, scales, protective gowns and gloves,” Nataliya says.  “All of this will be used for women in labour, small children and premature babies who are currently under our care.”   

Yuliya knows firsthand how critical the medical supplies have been for families. But there’s something else she’s desperate for.   

“I want us all to stay alive,” she says. “I want peace.”  

Your tax-deductible donation can be a lifeline for the children and families like Yuliya’s. Please donate now to send life-saving medical supplies to mothers in Ukraine.

How will my donation help support children and families in Ukraine? 

  • With $90 you could deliver 16 cans of therapeutic milk to children at risk of malnutrition.
  • With $144 you could provide two emergency first aid kits containing life-saving medical supplies such as medicine, gauze, gloves and other items for injured children and families.
  • With $255 you could deliver an early childhood kit with supplies for 50 children with no home or school.

Thanks to generous people like you, our teams in Ukraine and neighbouring countries continue to reach children and families with education, health care, psychosocial support, clean water and protection. Please give today.

Recently delivered supplies are unpacked at the centre.
Recently delivered supplies are unpacked at the centre.
© UNICEF/UN0604209/Ratushniak

But as the fighting continues, access to essential services, food and water is under threat. Children across the country are in desperate need of safety and protection. 

UNICEF remains on the ground in Ukraine to protect children and families. Since the beginning of the war in late February, our teams have reached:

  • more than 2 million people with access to safe and clean water.
  • More than 1.6 million children and women with access to health care at UNICEF-supported facilties. 
  • 491,00 children and caregivers with access to mental health and psychosocial support. 

Nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have been displaced. They have been forced to leave everything behind: their homes, schools, and often, their family. UNICEF estimates that more than 2 million refugees are children. Many separated or unaccompanied, putting them at risk of abuse and exploitation. 

UNICEF's support stretches across the borders, where are working with partners to set up more Blue Dots safe spaces to protect children and families on the move. 

Ukraine Children's Emergency Fund

Ukraine's children have endured violence, trauma, loss, destruction and displacement since the war escalated in February 2022.