Ukraine – May 28 2019

In an endless war, children suffer the most

In Stanitsa Luganska, the new normal is uncertainty and despair. It is has been five years since conflict devastated this once quaint, rural area in east Ukraine.

"Until 2014, we were the sleepy little neighbour of the big regional capital Lugansk," says Kateryna Profatilova, programme coordinator at SOS Children's Villages in Stanitsa Luganska. Most people led modest lives, she recalls. Parents worked, children went to school, small-town living was uneventful. If people needed anything, Lugansk was only 16 km away.

The establishment of the so-called contact line between the conflict zones cut Stanitsa Luganska from Lugansk. The only crossing point in the area is few hundred metres outside of town. It is constantly crowded with people queueing for hours to enter the Ukrainian government-controlled area for their pensions, medicine and supplies.

Many regular public services were interrupted by the war and some, like bus services, cannot be re-established.

"Everything for everyone is still hard to reach," says Kateryna. People have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get regular health services. It is not unusual for pregnant women to schedule Caesarean sections well before their due dates to avoid travelling for hours while in labour.

The SOS Children's Villages Social Centre in Stanitsa Luganska offers creative and educational activities, along with counselling. Many families are struggling in the conflict-torn region of eastern Ukraine. Photos and article by Katerina Ilievska.


The children of Stanitsa Luganska

"Before the war, children used to go alone to music lessons or to play football in Lugansk," says Kateryna. "Today, the children have nowhere to go to except to the activities we organise in our centre."

The SOS Children's Villages Social Centre offers creative and educational activities for children and young people, and counselling services for children and parents. In cooperation with partner organisations, SOS Children's Villages also provides humanitarian aid as needed.

The most sought-after service is psychological counselling. "We literally have lists of people waiting for counselling," says Irina Medvedeva, an SOS Children's Villages psychologist in Stanitsa Luganska. "Aggressive behaviour, anxiety, and speech problems remain the biggest difficulties for the children. If left unaddressed, they can have devastating consequences on them as adults."

Irina says that the consequences of the five-year-long conflict have a profound effect on parents and their ability to provide for their children. Unemployment, difficulties moving around, and constant uncertainty drive parents into depression. "Once parents were reluctant to seek psychological help, but this has drastically changed and there is a growing need," says Irina.

The holistic approach to working with each family, as well as a range of activities for children and parents, have positioned SOS Children's Villages as a trusted and reliable partner to families in Stanitsa Luganska. In 2018, 642 children from 329 families in the region received such support from the organisation.

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