Protecting children and families in crisis in Ukraine
Since the onset of the war in Ukraine, children have borne the heaviest burden. Millions of lives have been torn apart by violence. Families have been separated. The schools, playgrounds, hospitals, grocery stores, and homes they depended on to feel safe have been damaged or destroyed.
A generation of Ukrainian children are having their most basic rights to education, health care and the needs of their families threatened or denied.
When the war began, SOS Children’s Villages sprung into action to protect children and families and deliver vital humanitarian aid in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
Our response focused on the urgent needs of the most vulnerable – including women, children and families fleeing hotspots, displaced children without parental care, injured or traumatized children, and children living with disabilities.
Through collaborative delivery with local partners, last year our emergency response programs provided protection and humanitarian assistance to over 284,000 people in Ukraine, including over 150,000 children.
We offered critical immediate assistance such as cash and vouchers, emergency evacuation, and distribution of hygiene, food, and newborn care kits, as well as ongoing support including health, mental health and psychosocial care, education, and women and child-friendly spaces.
“Pretty much everything is very challenging for them,” says Annika, an emergency aid project coordinator for SOS Children’s Villages. “They don’t speak the language. They don’t know this country. They don’t know the customs. Often, they don’t know where to get help.”
Providing shelter and essential items for children and families
For the families forced to flee their homes in search of safety, many ended up at temporary shelters, like government buildings, public spaces, schools, and sports stadiums. These temporary spaces are not set up to meet the unique needs of children and families and are often overcrowded and unsanitary.
In Romania and Hungary, we supported temporary shelter facilities, providing necessary care to Ukrainian refugees and creating safe spaces for children and people with disabilities.
Food and hygiene kits provided comfort and relief for children and families who were forced to leave their homes with very little.
For Ukrainians in transit, we helped distribute warm meals within refugee hubs and at train stations.
For many, the cash and vouchers assistance were a vital lifeline that helped displaced families pay for rent, food, health care, and other critical services. This allowed families to decide for themselves how they can best address their needs.
Keeping children safe and empowering families
A focus of SOS Children’s Villages’ assistance has been on helping vulnerable women and children. Many mothers travelling alone with their children had to leave most of their belongings behind, putting them in a dangerous position with a lack of access to social services, essentials for their children, and a support network.
In times of crisis, our women and child-friendly spaces are key to keeping children and their caregivers safe and giving them a sense of normalcy. Children can access play therapy sessions and enjoy other fun activities in a safe environment while their mothers can consult with a psychologist and connect with other mothers over coffee.
The situation is especially dire for mothers travelling with newborn babies and living in shelters. Our newborn care kits contained the key items they needed from day 1 to 6 months of age, including diapers, clothing, toys, baby soap, and more.
Another challenge for children is the loss of schooling and the materials needed to rejoin online learning. With the support of Canadians, we also distributed tablets, headsets, and more to families so children can get back to learning and don’t miss another year of school.
- 9 emergency shelter facilities in Romania and Hungary, allowing over 5,800 people to access safe and dignified housing.
- Over 18,800 gender, age, and environmentally sensitive hygiene kits to people in transit.
- Over 19,500 with emergency food assistance.
- More than 770 newborn kits to help moms care for their babies.
- Over 2,800 children with the materials needed to return to school.
- Training for more than 700 people on psychosocial first aid and trauma-informed care.
- Over 12,300 multi-purpose cash grants and vouchers.
These life-saving programs in Ukraine could not be possible without the support of generous partners including the Government of Canada, the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, the Ptarmigan Charitable Foundation and Transat A.T. Inc.
As the ongoing war impacts millions well into 2023, SOS Children’s Villages continues our work in Ukraine, and will continue for as long as it takes – to save lives, reduce suffering, reunify and strengthen families, and maintain dignity among crisis-affected Ukrainians.