Mental health timebomb ticks louder on Ukraine war anniversary

Ukraine’s children are facing a mental health timebomb, as exposure to shelling, shooting and loss of family and friends takes a devastating toll, new World Vision research has found.

Since war broke out, an average of 54 civilians have been killed or injured in Ukraine every day, 2528 schools attacked, and up to 5 million children forced to flee for their lives. Nearly half of children’s homes have been damaged in hard hit Kherson, Kharkiv, and Dnipro.

World Vision Australia CEO Daniel Wordsworth – on the ground within days of the escalation last year –  said improving child mental health was an urgent priority.

“The true cost of this war is sadly now emerging in the most innocent victims – the children,” he said.

“The one-year anniversary is a grim new milestone. With every day that passes, the trauma deepens. Our new research tells us that children as young as nine are living in constant fear. They’ve lost family members, friends, and life as they once knew it. Imagine having your school and home bombed, running to a bunker every time an air raid siren wails, and watching your mum or dad leave you to serve on the frontlines! Somehow, this war must come to an end.”

Clinical psychologist Tatiana Orekhov said children were “severely disturbed” when arriving at World Vision child spaces, with faces “filled with fear and tightness”.

“They cried excessively, refused to eat, or participate in any activities we organised,” she said. “Their main concern will be to feel safe, close to their parents or caregivers.”

Children were reaping the benefits of World Vision’s child friendly spaces after attending regularly. Daniel said while exposure to war can destroy a child’s security, fundamental to healthy development, they can survive and prosper with the right support.

“Kids surrounded by love and care can thrive. In some instances, just knowing that someone is looking after them is all they need. That is exactly what World Vision is doing, backed by the generosity of everyday Australians. This war is robbing children of the wonder, fun and delight of childhood. We bring that back.”


Media Contact:  For further information or to organise an interview, please contact: Elissa Doherty at or on 0409 99 44 33.

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The needs assessment was conducted in Kharkiv, Kherson and Dnipro oblasts by World Vision and Arms of Mercy. The assessment team spoke to a total of 457 children between the ages of 9 and 17.


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