What do children in Ukraine want for Christmas? They want peace, report helpers from the country, which has been badly hit by war. They have faced death and destruction every day since February 24th.
On the occasion of the first Christmas celebrations in Ukraine since the start of the Russian war of aggression, the aid organization Save the Children drew attention to the dramatic situation of children in the country. "They are not in a celebratory mood, but are fighting to survive and to cope with everyday life in the war," said the managing director of the German section of Save the Children, Florian Westphal. Above all, children in Ukraine simply want peace.
Especially at Christmas, the situation caused by the war weighs heavily on the families. "Many fathers serve in the army and the children miss them particularly now," said Westphal. With shelter and play areas, Save the Children wants to ensure that "children can forget everyday wartime life for a while". There they could "play, learn and laugh with their peers," said Westphal. "That's at least as important to her right now as a Christmas present."
One of the worst is the mental suffering. Grief and hopelessness are written all over the children's faces. Westphal gave an eight-year-old girl as an example. She was "so badly marked by the war at a young age that a broad strand of her hair has faded. When the bomb alarm goes off, her whole body trembles." Some children, on the other hand, no longer hear the sounds of bombs and rockets. "That's also shocking," said Westphal.
However, the situation for children is also dramatic in other countries, emphasized Westphal, emphasizing Yemen and Somalia. In Somalia, children in particular are suffering from hunger because of years of drought. Many children struggled to survive. "And even in the children who do make it, malnutrition slows down physical and mental development. These consequences are felt throughout life." Millions of people have already lost their livelihoods as a result of the Corona crisis and the climate crisis. According to the children's rights organization, every sixth child worldwide - 449 million girls and boys - grows up in a war or conflict zone.
Due to the Ukraine war and the resulting rise in food prices, hunger is spreading even more rapidly. This year, 20 percent more children needed humanitarian aid than in the previous year. "We need significantly more money for humanitarian aid and for long-term development programs so that children are better prepared for future crises," Westphal demanded. However, he emphasized that the willingness to help in Germany was unbroken despite the drastically rising prices in this country.
The children themselves give Westphal hope. At a school in Afghanistan, a 15-year-old girl recently told him that she wanted to be a doctor or midwife, "because that doesn't exist in her village yet," said Westphal. "I am convinced that children can make the world a better place if we respect their rights and give them the necessary tools to do so."