July 18 2014

Ukraine: Violence taking toll on SOS families

Drawing of tanks by an SOS child [Ukraine July 2014]. 'We have noticed that children's games and also drawings have become more aggressive,' said a psychologist who works with SOS Children's Villages. Photo credit: Marko Magi

18 July 2014 - The crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet yesterday in Eastern Ukraine has intensified the world’s attention on a very turbulent region. Since February the political conflict in Ukraine has escalated and led to armed conflict. In recent weeks the violence has intensified, culminating in yesterday's fatal crash in which 298 people died. The plane was allegedly shot down by a missile. The Ukrainian government and Russian separatists blamed each other for the incident.

SOS Children's Villages have two villages in Ukraine, including one in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk, which is heavily affected. After six months of steady escalations, thousands of families have now fled their homes and hundreds of civilians have been killed. Specifically:
  • SOS Children’s Villages colleagues in Ukraine estimate the number of residents remaining in the city of Lugansk is 150,000-170,000 (from a normal population of 420,000).
  • The UNHCR has estimated the total number of internally displaced people in other Ukrainian regions at about 90,000.
  • The Russian Federation declared that about 500,000 Ukrainian citizens are now living in Russia; 30,000 of them have asked for refugee status.
  • The Ukrainian Ministry of Healthcare said about 500 civilians had been killed and 1,400 injured in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Last week artillery shells fell on Lugansk. Luckily, our colleagues and the families we help support have not been hurt physically.

The SOS Children´s Village in Ukraine

Six families with a total of 21 children live at the SOS Children’s Village in Lugansk. Through its family strengthening programmes SOS Children’s Villages Lugansk supports an additional 153 families with 317 children with material help, education and psychological services. As of 15 July, approximately 40% of these families remained in their homes in Lugansk. The rest had moved to other Ukrainian regions, the Russian Federation, or Crimea. Most of these families said they intend to come back to Lugansk with their children once it can be considered safe.

Effects of conflict on families

SOS Children’s Villages Lugansk co-workers have seen that the families’ problems have increased due to the political and armed unrest in Ukraine. Parents and children experience psychological trauma from constant fear. Health problems, unemployment and poverty have risen; some families have been affected by the death of a parent or breadwinner. Moreover, when families return after an evacuation they often find that the infrastructure and their homes and schools are damaged or destroyed, making it impossible to provide adequate living conditions and education for their children.