Kyiv, 16 April 2020,

Disruptions caused by COVID-19 response and associated containment measures disproportionally affect children. Emergency responses shut some public services. Family environments marked by poverty bear the full burden of measures used to prevent and control COVID-19, such as closure of schools, access to social services and support, lack of income, food and social isolation.

UNICEF and partners are deeply concerned that 42,000 children, including children with disabilities, were sent back home from the boarding schools, and other child-care institutions as a result of COVID-19 measures taken by the Government of Ukraine.

This was done without prior verification of the family conditions to where children returned. Majority of them are at-risk and in difficult economic conditions UNICEF concerned that high stress home environments put children at risk of abuse and neglect. This may also add further risks of child institutionalization in the post-quarantine period of COVID-19. Moreover, due to limited access and lack of protective equipment, social workers and child protection professionals are not able to conduct follow up assessments and monitoring of those families.

Therefore, we urge the Government of Ukraine to apply comprehensive measures to support families and children families financially and through services at local level.

In particular, we call for the following priority actions:

- provide necessary support and supervision to families at risk and financial and material support to socially vulnerable families who care for children returning from special boarding schools and other childcare institutions;

- provide clear guidance, instructions and support to local authorities and management of residential care institutions with children to prevent any further spread of COVID-19 in those institutions and to enable them with necessary protective measures to prevent possible outbreaks;

- provide clear guidance, instructions and support to protect social workers and child protection community workers and ensure their access to families where children were returned;

- take urgent measures to ensure that the use of residential care is strictly limited during this emergency phase;

Finally, it is critical to use the current crisis and its consequences to review the state approach towards child institutionalization, by starting to redirect the substantial financial resources being used for the continued provision of institutional care into prevention of family separation, family reunification, and the provision of suitable family -based alternative care placements, when necessary.

UNICEF remains committed to working together with the Government of Ukraine and other partners in further strengthening the child protection/welfare system in Ukraine and stands ready to provide its support.