Tanks, helicopters, corpses and their destroyed homes. As the conflict in Ukraine enters its ninth week, children fleeing the country have recounted the devastating impact the war is having on their mental health in a series of drawings released by Save the Children, the organization that for over 100 years fighting to save the girls and boys at risk and guarantee them a future.
According to the latest figures, it is estimated that over 5 million people – including 2.8 million children – have fled Ukraine since the escalation of the conflict. 2.3 million still remain in the country, while more than 500 have been killed or injured. In nine weeks of war, the Romanian border alone would have been crossed by over 750,000 refugees
As soon as the first families from Ukraine started crossing the border into Romania, Save the Children set up a child-friendly space in Bucharest’s largest train station, a transit point for thousands of refugees every day. It is a carefully designed play area, full of toys and drawing stations. Rooms specifically designed to give children the chance to be children again, after harrowing journeys that have forced them to leave their homes and often even families and friends.
Experienced staff, including psychologists and child protection experts, manage the space and provide psychological support to help children process their experiences. The children’s first drawings, as reported by Save the Children workers, clearly highlighted the trauma they had suffered and are trying to process. Hilda, 12 yo, drew a crying woman dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag next to a faceless gray soldier as bombs fall from a plane. One child used a red crayon to portray himself leaving his home as an unidentified object falls from the sky. Yet another drew two tanks rolling across the page. Finally, there are those who drew two women, one of whom lying on the ground.
Save the Children run a child friendly space in the largest train station in Bucharest, the north station. The child friendly space provides refugees from Ukraine with a safe area to rest and play, and equipment to help their children to unwind and play following long and stressful journeys. In collaboration with the Red Cross, Save the Children also offer all families food, water, hot drinks and essential hygiene items like babies’ nappies and baby changing facilities. Save the Children’s specialist staff also offer families medical treatment and psychological support. Save the Children has been working in Eastern Ukraine since conflict erupted in 2014, delivering essential humanitarian aid to children and their families. Even before this latest escalation, 2.9 million people — including over 400,000 children —needed humanitarian assistance. Save the Children are still supporting communities in Ukraine through our partners, and in neighbouring countries.
Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces provide a safe and supportive environment for children to socialise, play, and be children again, with child protection experts on hand to provide psychological first aid and help children process their experiences. Save the Children were already running Child Friendly Spaces in reception centres across Romania. Since 24th February, the organisation have set up more spaces at border crossings, transportation hubs, and reception centres.