SOS Children’s Villages on work within the framework of the “Pope for Ukraine” Action: in the context of the war, families need both material as well as psychological aid

Millions of women, men and children in the east of Ukraine try their best to survive during this longtime four-year conflict. Almost 200 thousand people live in the everyday fear of shooting. Interference within the access to the critical objects and the fall of the life necessities mean that almost 3.4 million people cannot satisfy their basic needs, they don’t have main services and need protection and help.

Almost 1.6 billion of Ukrainians have become forced relocated persons all around the country. Many families cannot go back home because of the military activities or because of the loss of their means of existence.

“Recently I have visited Luhansk region, – explained the SOS Children’s Camps Ukraine rapid reaction project manager Yevheniya Ryazayeva – in order to talk to the mobile medical teams that go through villages and regions, visit our beneficiaries and give out the aid. They ask for a psychological supervision for themselves. Social workers and psychologists have to serve families with resources and support, however because of the workload and complexity of the targeted categories in need of help, they get psychologically exhausted and burn out.

I have visited many families which we help in Severodonetsk, Starobilsk and Stanytsya Luhanska. We help them not only with food products or psychological services but also with renovation of houses, apartments, preparations for winter. I used to treat material help skeptically because I thought that it was better to focus on social services and therefore to motivate families to the further development. However, I saw that most of “our” families in complicated living conditions were not alcoholics or drug-users. Very often those are ordinary family couples or single mothers who cannot cope with the load or problems: serious illnesses, loss of workplaces, war, need to move… Their own resources are very limited, and they cannot solve their problem on their own, or they just have too many problems to solve”.

A husband of Iryna Stepanova from Stanytsia Luhanska died in 2014. Before the war in 2013 he received work of an expeditor in Luhansk. The family rented apartment their. And then the war started and the man got under the shooting. “I wasn’t even explained what had actually happened, – tells us the woman. – We left Luhansk after his death. December 2014 shooting calmed a little bit down and we came back. It was scary”.

Now Iryna lives in her parents’ house with her three children – it is impossible for her to support the children on her own. Her parents help her. Her mother is still working and her father, who used to work at the Luhansk plant is now working unofficially – it is hard to find work in the pension age. Once Iryna worked as an assistant bookkeeper but she cannot go back to work right now – her children are too small; 3, 4 and 7 years old. The elder girl goes to school now but the nursery for the younger children is located too far and it is scary to give them there. Not to mention how hard it is to find work in Stanytsia Luhanska.

“Financial aid for losing our supporter we don’t receive, – says Iryna. – I try to gather all needed document right now for that. My husband died in the occupied territory and the certificate was lost. I renewed it and came to court. But in order to make a Ukrainian certificate of death  I need more evidence – photo from the grave which is in Luhansk (I had no possibility to move the grave from that territory), and I almost don’t see it at all. So I have problems even gathering evidence to prove the death. I have been trying to do it since the end 2015. At that moment in Stanytsia Luhanska we had no lawyers. Right now I turned to NRC (Norvegian coucel on refugees). They promised to help me.

We have a yard and a greenhouse. We also plan to get a young pig and hens this spring. This helps us, of course. But we still struggle financially. That is why we are very grateful to the SOS Children’s camps Ukraine for warming up floors in the outhouse, for changing windows to metal-plastic within the framework of the “Pope for Ukraine” Initiative.

We have also been promised a double-bunk bed. I was very glad to hear that because in the childrens’ room there is not enough space for three kids. We have also received food and sanitary products for children. I am very grateful for all this help as well as for psychological consultations for children.

We faced shooting in Luhansk as well as Stanytsia Luhanska, so we hided in the basement. If we couldn’t reach basemement – we just fell on the floor. Windows cracked, the roof shoke. Children were very scared – they saw scary things happening. They still wake up at night and cry, they are very afraid of every noise. If something fells on the floor – they run back home, to me. Psychologists worked with them. It helped us a lot”.

Anzhelika Razumnaya – is a native citizen of Stanytsia Luhanska. She didn’t leave the town even when the shooting started. Her husband has been working in the “Teploservis” enterprise of the Stanuchno-Luhansk region. Anzhelika herself is a sales person. She used to work in the supermarket located in Makarovo. Then they had children – a daughter (5 years old) and two sons – 4 year old and 8 months old. After the military actions their elder daughter completely lost her hearing. Last spring she had cochlear implantation.

“Of course, it’s hard to cope with three children, – shares Anzhelika. – We survive due to the charitable aid. During the shooting all the household buildings have been ruined as well as the house itself – we needed to change the roof. We are very thankful to the “Pope for Ukraine” initiative for the renovation – the roof got covered and new plastic windows were set. It got much warmer. They helped us also with food products and sanitary sets for children. This is a huge saving for us”.

“Weather conditions change, – shares with us an employee of the SOS Children’s Camps Ukraine, project coordinator within the framework of the “Pope for Ukraine” Initiative, Kateryna Duvanska, – we have already given out all the children’s sanitary sets in the grey zone as well as food products, 1000 families received sets for warming up. Now we give out individual medical kits for families with children with chronic conditions and/or on the institutional treatment. Parents are not able to buy the expensive medicines and some of them are very hard to find. We buy medicines according to the recipes, given by parents.

Within the framework of the project we conducted examination of children from the adoptive families from Severodonetsk. One child was brought to the regional hospital in Lisichansk. A girl received diagnosis and was set her adequate and long-term treatment. We have also bought medicines for her.

In the grey zone we studied needs of 27 families. In general – families with numerous children and lower-income. Many of them needed children’s beds, writing tables and cabinets. According to the needs, we bought all this furniture.

We have also planned renovation of 50 household objects in Severodonetsk, Stanytsia Luhanska and Starobilsk regions, 43 of them are already fulfilled, 26 renovation works in Novoaidarsk and Stanychno-Luhansk regions are on the finishing line already.

By the end of March we had distributed more than half of 200 bought sets for women in labour. We will now distribute them to the women who expect to have labour in April. As our experience shows, these sets should be distributed beforehand – labour often starts two-three weeks before the term. And that is because of the wrong-set terms as well as because many women are received to the hospital before the needed term. There are no delivery hospitals in Stanychno-Luhansk as well as in Novoaidar regions, women are often forced to go to the neighbor regions. Sometimes in the extreme weather conditions with mud-locked roads it takes 100 or more km to reach the hospital. There was an accident in January when a woman from Novoaidar did not reach obstetric hospital. Her fifth child was born in the local gynecology department. The boy was named Bohdan, which means given by God.

In Popasnianskyi and Stanychno-Luhansk regions we observe the growth of cases with early delivery. 15-16 year old girls (born in 2002-2003) become mothers. The tendency of early motherhood has become more sensitive in the front-line area during the war activities. There are many military in Popasna and there are many children from them. There are also many single mothers.

There is a feeling that birth rate in the grey zone grew up. The project for 4 months included 200 sets for women in labour.  But it wasn’t enough and we were forced to order 25 more. Last year the same number was ordered for the 6-months-project.

The precise numbers of the growing birth rates, unfortunately, cannot be presented. Many women during their pregnancy periods go to the uncontrolled territories because there is special medical equipment, needed for complicated pregnancies, as well as narrow-focused specialists. Coming back to Ukraine and official documentation on baby, as a rule, takes about two months. There are legal troubles with registration of newborns.

One of the relocated mothers went to Luhansk for New Year holidays to meet her family. The younger child got in trouble there. A boy put a knitting needle into the socket and got a burn. His mother went to the hospital with him, wjile being pregnant at the same time. Because of the stress, she went into labor earlier – and she hah a baby. She called us and asked to tell her how to get back to Ukraine with her newborn baby. We are still giving her advises over phone, but it takes time. Especially, when the young mother is in the stress and facing so many troubles she is ready to give up”.

 Many  families in the near-front line territories get into complicated situations. They do everything possible but poverty, absence of work and homelessness – all these troubles prevent them from providing children with normal living conditions. Families need elementary support during the war, and in most cases that does not mean material support. That is why SOS Children’s Camps Ukraine as well as “Pope for Ukraine” Initiative – is a significant support for them, since even partial solving problems and showing them that they are not alone and we care – is priceless. This stops family form falling to the bottom of the social life, from where you can hardly go back… And many never go back, if they are found too late or if they deny suggestion to live in another way.

Source:  SOS Children’s Villages