SOS Children’s Villages finds common needs for families on both sides of Ukraine dispute
SOS Children’s Villages launched an emergency programme in 2014 to help children and families affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. It is one of the few organisations working on both sides of the contact line.
SOS Children’s Villages plays a unique role in helping children and families, says Andriy Chuprikov, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine. “Our organisation is the only one on either side of the demarcation line - not only among international organisations, but also among governmental agencies - that provides a long-term comprehensive support for families and an assessment of the needs of each family.”
SOS Ukraine’s emergency programme works in the eastern city of Luhansk, which is under independent control, as well as in the Starobilsk and Sievierodonetsk in the area of Luhansk province that remains under Ukrainian administration. It has cooperation projects in Stanytsia Luhanska, Novoaidar and Popasna (also in the region of Luhansk under Ukrainian administration) and assists families who have fled conflict zones and are now living near the capital city of Kiev.
The emergency programme provides emotional and health care, family strengthening, humanitarian help, educational support, and activities for children. Mr Chuprikov provides further insights in his answers to questions below.
An estimated 3.8 million civilians affected by the conflict are in need of help. What impact are you seeing on children after three years of conflict and uncertainty?
The quality of life of families with children sharply deteriorated during the armed conflict, especially in the ‘grey zone’ that lies outside Ukrainian control. In addition, the lack of permanent jobs has a negative impact on the financial security of families, and it affects the ability of parents and caregivers to provide the food and health care their children need. The departure of health workers from the conflict zone to other regions of Ukraine has led to a catastrophic medical care situation for children. A diagnosis can take up to two months, during which time the health of the child is deteriorating and he or she may get the wrong medication. Most of the diagnostic equipment is no longer accessible in some areas and it takes time and money to travel to cities – such as Kharkiv – to get quality diagnostic service. The state does not provide these services free of charge. In the ‘grey zone’ districts of Stanichno-Luhansky, Novoaydarsky and Popasnjansky, there is a complete absence of specialists such as neurologists and opticians. There are no maternity wards. It is not always possible for pregnant women to get to a maternity ward in time to deliver a baby. And when mothers and newborns return to remote villages, they are often cut off from the medical support and other assistance they need. One of our concerns is that up to now there is no legislative provision for children affected by the armed conflict, despite the advocacy of NGOs, including SOS Children’s Villages. Child protection mechanisms and operational assistance schemes have not been clarified, and no response plan has yet been developed in the event of an escalation in the conflict.
Tell us what SOS Children’s Villages does to help?
We help families who are in the most vulnerable categories:
- Internally displaced families who have problems with health, housing, employment, access preschool and education;
- Families where the mother or father is bringing up their children on their own and need external support;
- Families who are caring for children who have lost biological parents or are otherwise deprived of parental care.
We help these families in several important ways. Whenever possible, we work to keep children in their biological family and provide support for a favourable, stable and secure family environment that promotes the development of the child. In addition, we help to meet the basic needs of children of all ages by helping ensure they have a healthy and balanced diet, clothing, shoes and other day-to-day needs. And third, we work to provide affordable and quality health care and diagnostics.
Unlike Luhansk, SOS Children’s Villages has no programmes in Donetsk but the humanitarian need is still great. Are you considering extending our emergency response to this region?
There are a lot of children in the Donetsk region who are at risk and families are remaining in their homes, despite the escalating conflict, because they do not have a place to go. There is also a shortage of social services. The Donetsk regional authorities and the Ministry of Social Policy have said there is a need to create, support and train specialists to help marginalised families and those in difficult circumstances. If it is possible to find funding, SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine is ready to extend our activities to the Donetsk region.