A Kid-Sensitive Guide to Understanding Recent News from Ukraine

It is always scary to hear about war. In recent weeks, Russia launched major attacks on Ukraine, and many people have had to flee their homes for safety. Sadly, this isn’t the only conflict going on in our world. As a kid, you may be hearing words like “war,” and “refugee” in the news or at school. So what does it all mean?

What does “refugee” mean?

A refugee is a person who is forced to leave their home because their life is in danger. One reason people have to leave their home is war or conflict. Another reason people might have to leave is persecution. Persecution is when a person is in danger, and not treated equally, due to their culture, religion, or something else that makes them unique.

Where do refugees come from?

Refugees can come from anywhere. Refugee status was created to protect everyone, even you and me here in Aotearoa.

What is happening in Ukraine?

On the 24th of February Russian forces launched major attacks on Ukraine. To do this, they have used weapons like missiles. Ukraine is fighting back. This means that people had to leave their homes very quickly to escape. The people who have left their homes are now refugees. Over 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries in the last 2 weeks. There are predictions that up to 7 million people will have to leave their homes. There are 7.5 million children in Ukraine caught up in this war.

Why did Russia launch attacks on Ukraine?

Learning about history is really important to understanding, and preventing, most conflicts. Country borders haven’t always existed, and they change through time. Russia and Ukraine used to be a part of a big country called the Soviet Union. But 30 years ago, this broke up into many smaller countries. Russia believes parts of Ukraine should belong to them. There has been armed conflict in Ukraine since 2014 over these areas. Recently, Ukraine wanted to join a group called NATO, but Russia didn’t like this idea. Many of the reasons for this war come down to one person, the president of Russia, Vladamir Putin. There is never any good reason for a war.

Is Ukraine the only crisis in the world right now?

Sadly no. In Yemen there has been a war lasting for over seven years, it is a civil war which means it mainly involves groups within the same country and over 4 million people have fled their homes. In Myanmar, groups of people who are not part of majority cultural groups are being persecuted by the military creating over 1.1 million refugees. There are also major refugee crises in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Afghanistan, Colombia, and many, many other places.

How can I help children in Ukraine?  

There are many ways to take action, you can find some ideas here. You can fundraise and donate to an organisation like Save the Children that is providing relief to children, not only in Ukraine, but all around the world. You can donate here, or set up a fundraiser here.

New Zealand accepts 1500 refugees each year from around the world, and the government have just announced that 4000 people from Ukraine will be able to seek refuge here while their country is at war. You can help by welcoming these children when they arrive at your school, and helping them settle into New Zealand life. New Zealand is very lucky to have a refugee programme, as they bring their rich culture, skills and experiences with them which makes our own country even more beautiful.

It is also really important that we work together to prevent injustice happening, both in Aotearoa and around the world. Learning about history, rights, and speaking up, when you see someone being treated unfairly, are all really important and help make our world a better place for everyone.