Statement - 23 February 2023

Dereje Wordofa – Statement on the current situation in Russia

Dereje Wordofa

On the instructions of the Russian government, thirteen Ukrainian children are currently being cared for at two SOS Children's Villages Russia program sites. I am upset that Russian propaganda takes advantage of the situation. The unforeseen publicity unfortunately happened on our ground. As an organization, we stand for children’s right to protection worldwide, especially those who don’t have parental care or risk being separated from their families.

On behalf of our federation, I refute that SOS Children’s Villages was ostensibly involved in the displacement of children. Similarly, I unequivocally condemn the use of children for propaganda purposes. The war of aggression of Russia on Ukraine confronts our organization with hindrances to carry out our child protection work, anchored in humanitarian principles.

The protection of children in often insecure and politically charged environments such as armed conflicts, brings complex challenges that we must navigate to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those that need it.

The thirteen children have been placed in foster families by the local authorities. The foster parents were recruited and are employed by the Russian authorities. SOS Children's Villages in Russia hosts the foster families and provides psychosocial support for the children and their foster families. The Russian President’s Commissioner for Child Protection is said to have visited SOS Children’s Villages in Russia for political publicity.

It must be clear that the mission of our federation is the protection of children.  Our prime impetus is to ensure their survival and wellbeing. Children are placed in acutely vulnerable situations when violent conflict prevails. SOS Children's Villages is highly concerned about the circumstances in Russia and is strictly evaluating our measures in the region.  We continue to protect and care for children on all sides of conflicts, including in Russia and Ukraine. We need to respect and protect all children so that we ensure their safety and their rights at all times.

The compassion of our donors, the humanitarian actions of SOS Children’s Villages in neighboring countries who hosted refugees are remarkable. I particularly appreciate the courage, diligence and devotion of our teams in Ukraine who are tirelessly, every day, working to assist children who are cold, hungry, fearful, traumatized and in desperate need of support and care in a safe family environment. We stand by our unwavering commitment that no child should grow up alone.

SOS Children’s Villages has been active in Ukraine for 20 years and has supported more than 74,000 children since the beginning of the war, for example with shelter, humanitarian aid, financial resources, or psychosocial services. In Russia, the organization has been active for more than 25 years and currently cares for more than 600 children. The work of SOS Children's Villages is always guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.