KYIV, 23 November – It is estimated that more than 900 babies have been born every day since the deadly war in Ukraine escalated nine months ago, according to Save the Children, with the fallout from the conflict seriously affecting the health of mothers and their newborns.
A new analysis by the aid organization, using data from the UN’s population perspectives, reveals that some 247,440 babies – or an average of 903 babies a day – have been born since Feb. 24 to women living in Ukraine when the war escalated nine months earlier. .
The analysis comes as the country’s healthcare system is under immense strain after nine months of war, putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of babies and new and pregnant mothers at risk with limited access to medical care, particularly in areas of active conflict.
In the nine months of war, urban areas across Ukraine were repeatedly bombed, with at least 703 attacks on health infrastructure. In southern Ukraine, missiles reportedly hit a maternity hospital late on Tuesday, killing a two-day-old baby and wounding two doctors. Since the war intensified, at least 1,170 children have been killed or injured in Ukraine, according to verified UN data.
*”An average of about 900 children are born each day into a lifetime of uncertainty. *The chaos of war poses a serious threat to these mothers and newborns,” said Sonia Khush, Country Director for Save the Children in Ukraine. We are hearing reports from women who went into labor early because of their constant state of stress and fear.”
“At the beginning of the war, many pregnant women were forced to give birth in basements or bunkers. Now, we see women giving birth in overcrowded hospitals, far from family members and in countries hosting refugees from Ukraine. Even though there are fewer women giving birth giving birth in bunkers compared to earlier this year, their pregnancies are still just as stressful,” Khush added.
High levels of stress and anxiety during pregnancy can affect the development of the baby’s brain or immune system and can lead to premature birth or even miscarriage. A recent study in the journal Infancy also found that babies exposed to more stress fluctuations during pregnancy showed more fear, sadness and distress at 3 months than less stressed mothers.
Antonina*, 27, was 30 weeks pregnant when she fled fighting in Donetsk Oblast with her husband, Andriy*, 36, on 10 May. The couple sought refuge in Dnipro, where Antonina gave birth two days later to a premature baby girl with serious health complications.
“The war added an immense amount of stress to my pregnancy. I couldn’t sleep with the constant sound of fighting and fear that something might happen to my family. I was so stressed that I ended up with high blood pressure. I knew there was there. something very wrong, but we were living in an area with no doctors who could help, so we had to leave,” Antonina said. “If it weren’t for the war, I don’t think I would have had such a stressful pregnancy.”
Andriy lost his job almost immediately after the escalation of the war in February, putting pressure on him and Antonina as they anxiously awaited the birth of their daughter, Ganna*.
Due to stress and anxiety, Antonina had to have an emergency C-section about 10 weeks before her due date. Ganna was born with a compromised immune system and now requires an inhaler three times a day and will be on medication for the next three years.
“Due to all the pregnancy complications, we spent several weeks in the hospital. We couldn’t even leave because of my baby’s immune system and his breathing complications.“, Antonina said.
Although the family now lives in Dnipro, a large city in eastern Ukraine, Andriy still cannot find a job, making it difficult for him to pay for Ganna’s medicines.
*”Andriy is still out of work. Since we were moved from *Donetsk, nobody wants to hire you. They only want Dnipro locals. Andriy is an electrician and builder, he can work, but he just can’t find a job”, Antonina said. “We don’t have an extended family. It’s just us. The only plan we have is to raise a healthy child.🇧🇷
Due to the family’s financial situation, they live in a collective center with around 280 people who have fled fighting in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine.
Save the Children is supporting displaced families in Dnipro, like Antonina’s, by providing mattresses and clean water to collective centres. The aid organization is also providing cash assistance to vulnerable families in Ukraine so that they can buy much-needed items like clothing, medicine and food. In western Ukraine, Save the Children is training health workers in breastfeeding practices.
With the help of local partners, Save the Children is providing shelter, food, money, fuel, psychological support, and baby and hygiene kits to displaced families.
Notes to the Editor:
- Based on UN data published in its World Population Prospects, an estimated 329,620 births are expected in Ukraine in 2022, and thus 247,440 births during the 274 days since the war escalated on February 24 (274/365* 329,620). This equates to approximately 903 babies a day. Due to the large volume of people fleeing Ukraine since February 24, many of these babies are likely to have been born in countries hosting women displaced from Ukraine.
- Save the Children has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, delivering humanitarian aid to children and their families. It is now supporting refugee families across Europe and helping children access the services they need.
- Between February 24 and November 21, the UN found that 1,170 children were killed or injured in the war, with 415 children killed and 755 injured: Ukraine: Civilian Casualties Update November 21, 2022 | OHCHR