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By UNICEF Australia
22 May 2022

UNICEF is still there to protect children

The photographs captured by our teams in Ukraine and neighbouring countries echo images from 75 years ago when UNICEF was founded to support and protect children in the aftermath of World War II.

Over the past eight years, Ukraine has experienced escalating conflict that has already inflicted profound and lasting harm on children.  

As of May 2022, 6 million people had been forced to flee Ukraine, finding safety in neighbouring countries. This includes some 2.2 million children who need humanitarian aid.

Now, the need to support and protect Ukraine’s children has only grown. While families moving across borders to stay safe is not new, UNICEF will stay and deliver for children.

In Greece, 1949, refugee children peer out the window of a makeshift hut whose walls are made from cardboard boxes.

1949, Greece

Refugee children peer out the window of a makeshift hut whose walls are made from cardboard boxes.

In Ukraine, 2022, a little girl peers out from a window as she waits inside an evacuation train to Poland, at Lviv train station.

2022, Ukraine

A little girl peers out from a window as she waits inside an evacuation train to Poland, at Lviv train station.

Travelling to safety 

By the end of World War II, the world had seen millions of families and children leaving their homes in search for safety, peace and protection.  

In 2022, since the war in Ukraine began, families have flocked to train stations or taken to foot in long, dangerous and freezing journeys to reach safety. Once they cross the border they can finally receive essential support and protection from harm.

"The war (in Ukraine) has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War II."

Catherine Russell
UNICEF Executive Director
In 1946, inside Germany, a small displaced girl is wrapped in blankets and sits on a mound of other refugee belongings.

1946, Germany

A small displaced girl is wrapped in blankets and sits on a mound of other refugee belongings.

In 2022, young Valeria arrives in Romania with limited belongings seeking shelter from the conflict that started in her home country of Ukraine less than a week before. © UNICEF/UN0599229/Moldovan

2022, Romania

Young Valeria arrives in Romania with limited belongings seeking shelter

During this journey, keeping warm in harsh winter conditions is essential for children’s survival.  

In 1946, refugee children wore clothes donated by the citizens of host countries to stay warm and protected in harsh conditions. In 2022, thanks to the generosity of our supporters, UNICEF is assisting children in a similar way by delivering warm clothes, blankets and other emergency supplies in Ukraine.  

In response to ongoing and urgent needs, our teams on the ground are delivering life-saving supplies to children and families. Make a tax-deductible donation and help to deliver life-saving supplies to children in Ukraine.

Receiving essential supplies

Conflict has devastating consequences for children's access to basic services in Ukraine, just like it did 75 years ago. 

Many children are living underground or escaping to rural areas to find safety and shelter from the bombing, with no idea when they can return home. 

Across the Ukraine large numbers of local volunteers are coming together in solidarity, responding to conflict by converting public buildings into assistance centres, creating safe spaces for children and new mothers in train stations and distributing essential supplies.

In Poland, 1946, a nun serves bowls of soup to a group of children who get their only meal for the day at this UNRRA-supplied kitchen in the Slask Dabrowski district. UNRRA (later UNICEF) boxes are by her feet. © UNICEF/UNI43101/Kubicki .

1946, Poland

A nun serves bowls of soup to a group of children who get their only meal for the day at this UNRRA-supplied kitchen.

In Poland, 2022, volunteers provide supplies to children and families arriving at the border crossing point after fleeing the violence in Ukraine. © UNICEF/UN0607344/English

2022, Poland

Volunteers provide supplies to children and families arriving at the border crossing point.

UNICEF continues to work with local partners to provide, water, sanitation and education supplies for children of all ages. 

We know that keeping children safe, healthy and experiencing moments of normalcy in such extreme circumstances is essential in their recovery from trauma. 

In Yugoslavia, 1946, three boys affected by World War II receive aid and support to continue learning in a school in the north-western region of Croatia. © UNICEF/UNI43103/Unknown

1946, Yugoslavia

Three boys affected by World War II receive aid and support to continue learning in a school.

In Ukraine, 2022, children draw and make postcards in the Kharkiv metro. UNICEF equipped the metro station in Kharkiv with learning materials for art, play, and reading. This is one of the few entertainments available to them now during the continuous shelling of their war-torn city.

2022, Ukraine

Children draw and make postcards in the Kharkiv metro.

Finding relief in Blue Dot centres

When conflict and displacement occur, women and children are at increased risk of gender-based violence, abuse, psychological distress, and family separation.  

Many of the displaced children that UNICEF support are often in shock, confused, and exhausted when they finally reach shelter.

In Poland, 1946, a refugee family returning from Rudki, south of the Ukrainian city of Lvov, rests on a pile of their belongings during their travel west to the farm that awaits them in the south-western Lower Silesia region. © UNICEF Archives

1946, Poland

A refugee family returning from Rudki, rests on a pile of their belongings.

In Ukraine, 2022, Mikhail holds his daughter, while sitting next to his other children inside a tent in a reception area on the border of Moldova after escaping violence in their village. © UNICEF/UN0607407/Modola

2022, Ukraine

Mikhail holds his daughter, while sitting next to his other children inside a tent.

To support the hundreds of thousands of families and children fleeing Ukraine today, UNICEF has a unique and effective solution. 

In collaboration with local authorities in refuge countries, UNICEF and it’s partners have set up safe places at border crossings for children and families. 

‘Blue Dot’ centres provide respite, allowing families to reunite or rest in a safe space before travelling to their next destination. 

In Egypt, 1946, refugee children, including two boys in a toy wagon made from salvaged wood, play in the UNRRA (later UNICEF) refugee camp in Tolumbat. Ante holding the teddy bear, is from Yugoslavia. © UNICEF/UNI43123/Mihanoff

1946, Egypt

Refugee children, including two boys in a toy wagon made from salvaged wood.

In Romania, 2022, 11-year-old Ukrainian Anastasia poses for a photograph with her new toy while in the UNICEF-supported Blue Dot centre, where her and her family receive emergency support after escaping escalating violence. © UNICEF/UN0627036/Nicodim

2022, Romania

Anastasia poses for a photograph with her new toy while in the UNICEF-supported Blue Dot centre

At Blue Dots, services include safe spaces for mothers, babies and children to learn, play and receive medical and psychosocial first aid.  

Families also receive legal services, protection of unaccompanied children, reunification services, access to accommodation and transport support for the travel onwards. 

UNICEF is helping children and families in crisis

In Czechoslovakia, 1946, workers unload a shipment of 60,000 hatching eggs from a Veterans' Air Lines aeroplane in Prague, the capital. The eggs were donated to UNRRA (later UNICEF) as food aid. © UNICEF/UNI41888/Unknown

1946, Czechoslovakia

Workers unload a shipment of 60,000 hatching eggs from a Veterans' Air Lines aeroplane in Prague.

In Lviv, Ukraine, 2022, boxes of medical, educational and recreation supplies are delivered to a children’s hospital. This is the first shipment of UNICEF supplies to hospitals in Ukraine, with more to follow in the coming days, with the goal of reaching 22 hospitals in five regions. © UNICEF/UN0606248/Filippov

2022, Ukraine

Boxes of medical, educational and recreation supplies are delivered to a children’s hospital.

Wherever children are caught in emergencies, UNICEF works to uphold their fundamental rights to protection, health care and education. We can get supplies to children within 48 hours.  

UNICEF has been working in Europe for more than 75 years and we continue to stay and protect children, no matter what. Our teams are working day and night to supply safe water and prepositioning health, hygiene and emergency education supplies to children and families in Ukraine.  

By giving to our Ukraine Emergency Appeal, you can be a lifeline for Ukrainian children and families. 

The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was created in 1943 to assist with relief operations and global recovery from the devastation of World War II. Focusing primarily on Europe and China, it finally closed in 1949 as its mandate was subsumed in the long-term development work of other United Nations agencies. UNRRA's work for children was taken over by UNICEF, created on 11 December 1946. 

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