World Vision New Zealand director, Grant Bayldon, says tragically a future of mental health problems likely awaits many of this young generation of Ukrainians.
“Children are struggling to cope with trauma piled on top of trauma. Based on the experiences of other children and families affected by conflict, we can expect that more than 1.5 million children in Ukraine may develop depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder or schizophrenia as a result of their experiences during the war, ” he says.
Bayldon says World Vision staff working with to provide support to young Ukrainians report changes in the way children behave that are out of the ordinary.
“In addition to increased substance abuse, our staff and partners tell us that children are increasingly fearful and struggle to contain their emotions.
“One in five children say their peers are turning to physical violence as a coping mechanism. They want to take revenge on others as they see relatives hurt by shelling, parents away on the frontlines, and it all feels desperately unjust.”
Palusky says further stress is heaped on families as they suffer the economic consequences of the conflict, and cannot afford the things they used to.
He says education, so crucial for providing a sense of normality for young people, is all but impossible for many in Ukraine.
“Frequent power outages and air alarms are keeping many children out of school as they struggle to connect to online classes from bunkers.
“Restoring a sense of normalcy for children is crucial, and all parties to the conflict must respect and uphold commitments to international humanitarian and human rights law. Without peace, children in Ukraine will continue to pay a severe mental, as well as physical, toll.”
Bayldon says New Zealanders have played their part to help provide a sense of normal life for children who have fled Ukraine for Romania with an education and mental health programme.
World Vision New Zealand, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is jointly funding the programme which will support more than 7,000 children.