Women and children under fire

Giving birth in a shelter, despairing over the ruins of a bombed house, a child dying of dehydration, sexual violence, exploitation, rape and abuse that women and children in Ukraine are victims of. They are particularly vulnerable to violence, abuse of various kinds and human trafficking. This is especially true for migrating children, unaccompanied by adults, single women and mothers.
  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) have reported that since 24 February, i.e. the day the Russian invasion began, more than 7.5 million refugees - 90% of them women and children - have fled Ukraine to seek refuge in Europe, or outside Europe. Another 7.1 million people, including women and children in need of medical care, have been internally resettled within Ukraine. The Border Guards report that around 4 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border.
  • Russia's invasion of Ukraine poses a direct threat to the lives and well-being of around 8 million children.
  • A report by aid organisation Care and UN Women published in Bonn in May shows that women are particularly affected by war. Women do most of the humanitarian work, caring for their loved ones and those in need. For the purpose of the report, 179 interviews were conducted between 2nd and 6th April with residents of 19 regions in Ukraine.
  • The number of civilian and child casualties continues to rise. At the beginning of the conflict escalation 234 children were killed and 330 wounded (these are official figures confirmed by UNHCR as of 5th May, but the actual number is much higher). More than 700 Ukrainian children are now known to have been killed or injured, some have been missing.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hospitals and medical facilities have been attacked at least 186 times in Ukraine.
  • Some water and educational infrastructure have been destroyed. In many places affected by the hostilities, the inhabitants have no water, electricity or gas. The scale of poverty is increasing dramatically, and an epidemic of cholera and dysentery has broken out in eastern Ukraine.
  • UNICEF reports that 20.2 million people, including 5.3 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian aid, including: food, medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, water, hygiene materials, educational kits for children and clothing as well as  psychological support after the traumatic experiences of war (both in Ukraine and in countries of asylum).
  • Ukraine’s prosecutors have already registered over 12,000 war crimes involving more than 600 occupants since the beginning of the Russian invasion.
  • For four months many children have been living with their parents or guardians in shelters and basements, where light and gas are scarce and assistance is increasingly difficult due to the constant shelling by the Russians during the ongoing eastern offensive of the troops of the Russian Federation.
  • Residents are living under constant threat to their lives. In many regions they have to hide  from attacks all the time. There is a shortage of food and medicine. People often have to sleep on the ground where they place their mattress or a camp bed.
  • The UN organisation also points out that a lot of women from eastern Ukraine experience violence. According to a 2019 UNFPA survey, about 75 percent  of Ukrainian women reported having experienced some form of violence, one in three physical or sexual one.


  • 80,000 births during the war. In its communication the UN states: "We estimate that 80,000 women will give birth in Ukraine over the next three months. Many of them will not have access to medical care they need". This is dangerous because for many women childbirth can develop into a life threatening situation. The situation is also dangerous for their new-born children.
  • Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many women have had to give birth in adverse conditions: in bomb shelters or metro stations, because hospitals were inaccessible or destroyed.

***these statistics refer to May 2022 and are changing dynamically, mostly to the disadvantage of women and children and civilian persons in Ukraine



Researchers observed that high level of stress due to rocket attacks in southern Israel, especially in Sderot (a town near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip), is the cause of abnormalities in new-borns observed by researchers from Ben Gurion University, Barzilai Hospital and the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research. The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between pregnant women's exposure to stress under missile warning alerts and the risk of spontaneous miscarriage. The study was conducted in Barzilai Hospital in Kiryat Gat. The study was carried out in the years 2001 and 2008, during the heaviest rocket fire of Sderot from Gaza, whereas the town of Kiryat Gat was out of the rocket fire. The researchers noted a difference in the proportion of births of boys to girls. In Sderot it was 49.5 per cent boys to 50.5 per cent girls, and in the general population: 51 boys for every 49 girls. The study also revealed differences in birth weight - in Sderot birth weight was definitely lower. Apart from that, more premature births and cases of microcephaly or small head circumference were noted.  Girls born in Sderot were 44 per cent more likely to weigh less than 2.5kg and 50 per cent more likely to be born before the thirty-seventh week of pregnancy. The risk of microcephaly was almost twice as high for girls and 20-27 per cent higher for boys.

"Maternal exposure to the stress of missile attacks becomes a risk factor for low birth weight, premature birth and microcephaly primarily among female foetuses", noted Dr Tamar Weinstock of Ben Gurion University. The difference in the proportion of births of boys to girls became more difficult for researchers to explain. The study authors theorized that it may have to do with different placental responses. "Female foetuses are generally more resilient to stress", says Eyal Anteby, head of the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at Barzilai Hospital. It has been suggested that more pregnancies with male foetuses could probably end in more miscarriages.


Research on generational trauma was conducted in relation to the experience of World War II. In 2008, Professor Maja Lis-Turlejska conducted research on a group of 211 people who lived in Poland and experienced World War II as children. Out of all respondents 30.9 % of Poles and 55.6 % of Jews had symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Western societies involved in the war were also studied. The highest level of symptoms was found among the Dutch, around 7 %, in other countries, including Germany, around 2-4 %. Then, in 2008, a study was conducted on a group of students to examine levels of post-traumatic stress in the second generation after the war. It showed that Polish students exhibit 11% of inherited PTSD, which proves the inheritance of trauma even to the next few generations starting from the first generation experiencing war in childhood.