Before the start of the military conflict, more than 160,000 children with disabilities lived in Ukraine. According to the National Health Service of Ukraine, 105 thousand of them were in boarding schools.
It is known that by the end of March 2022, due to the danger of being in orphanages, 96 thousand children returned to their families and guardians. Another 1,900 children with parents were evacuated from orphanages in the war-affected regions of Ukraine to safer places. However, their movements were not recorded, and parents, relatives and government agencies did not have information about the children’s whereabouts for a long time. It took the Ukrainian authorities a month and a half to find some of the children and add them to the state database of Ukrainian citizens.
A more complicated situation arises with information about disabled children who left the country with their families. In addition, the Ukrainian authorities have no information about nearly 5,000 children who were previously in orphanages in Russian-occupied Luhansk, Donetsk and Kherson.
UN experts have already expressed concern about the lack of information from the Ukrainian authorities about where the children are and what their situation is after their return. A number of UN human rights experts say disabled children sent back to their families may face the risk of violence. Many of these children, especially those with mental and psychological problems, could go untreated. Some of them ended up on the streets and are at risk of falling into the hands of traffickers or rapists. UN experts have information that Ukraine has apparently asked third countries hosting refugees to place children with disabilities in special institutions, even if these countries have already abandoned the institutionalization of children. UN human rights activists emphasized that “third countries have a great responsibility to help Ukraine provide a better future for its citizens with disabilities, including children.”