Children forced from their homes in Ukraine are struggling to cope as Russia’s military operations enter the second week, with Save the Children providing support through local partners to ensure families can get access to medicine as well as to water and dwindling food supplies.
Long queues comprising mostly of mothers and young children fill the halls of a Save the Children supported centre for displaced families in eastern Ukraine. Here families can stock up on essentials and find a safe place to sleep before they continue on their journey.
“We are supporting more than 1,000 people who fled their homes, about 60% are mothers with small children and pregnant women,” said Nataliia Kirkach, director of Slavic Heart, a Save the Children partner organisation operating in eastern Ukraine.
“This area had been generally peaceful before but now we are starting to hear shelling nearby. We didn’t want to abandon the families we are caring for so our staff stayed. Everyone is stressed about their safety, including children.”
As the conflict intensifies, more and more families are coming to Slavic Heart, where Save the Children is working alongside local authorities to register families forced to flee their homes and provide them with temporary shelter. Through Slavic Heart, Save the Children is also providing online mental health sessions for children, and distributing diapers, blankets and other essential items to vulnerable families.
“We still have some products we are distributing to arriving families thanks to Save the Children. However, supplies are running low, including water, and the need is rapidly growing,” said Nataliia.
“About 8,000 people need help in this area. There is no communication between cities, so it makes getting supplies very difficult. Right now, we can only source locally.”
Millions of children remain trapped in Ukraine, seeking safety underground while bombing and shelling continue to escalate throughout the country. Access to food, clean water, and medicine may soon be out of reach for many children in Ukraine, with parents too frightened to wait in long lines at shops, which mainly have empty shelves.
Freezing winter temperatures add to the long list of problems children in Ukraine are facing. Nataliia explained that children are travelling to the centre with few belongings, barely enough to keep them warm.
“Our staff are noticing children are getting ill because they are so cold. However, there are no working pharmacies in the area, so getting medicine for families is extremely challenging,” Nataliia explained.
“Some people are also in urgent need of very specific medication, such cancer treatment, insulin, and epilepsy medication. We managed to get some medicines but only in very small quantities.”
Russia’s continued military operation across Ukraine has pushed the country to the brink of a medical crisis. Some of the women at the centre require caesarean sections, but there are no surgeons in the area and the situation is worsening. Slavic Heart volunteers are helping to redirect women in labour to local health facilities to so they can safely give birth.
With no end in sight for the deadly conflict, hundreds of thousands of people, mainly children and women, will continue to arrive in Poland, Romania, and other neighbouring countries. According to the UN, an estimated 1 million people have already left Ukraine, more than 400,000 of them are believed to be children.
Irina Saghoyan, Save the Children’s Eastern Europe Director, said:
“We will not give up on the children in Ukraine. Our commitment to children and the communities we serve remains unchanged. Our incredible partners have been instrumental in ensuring we can still get life-saving aid to children and parents.
“Children have witnessed or experienced acts of violence, some showing signs of significant distress. Our partner Slavic Heart is telling us that children urgently need mental health support, along with food, warm clothes and medicine. We need funding to ensure critical support can continue for children impacted by this crisis.
“This conflict will have far-reaching consequences for children in Europe and around the world. We will continue to respond where we are most needed and where children need urgent protection.”
Save the Children has been working with Slavic Heart in eastern Ukraine since 2015, delivering essential items to families, and ensuring children are protected and have access to mental health support.
Save the Children has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, providing humanitarian aid to children and their families. This includes supporting access to education, distributing winter and hygiene kits, and providing cash grants to families. Our specialists support children to overcome the mental and psychological impacts of their experiences of conflict and violence and increase their ability to cope with stress in their daily lives.
To support Save the Children’s work in Ukraine donate here: www.savethechildren.org.au/ukraine
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
Save the Children staff and volunteers are distributing food, water and hygiene hits to refugees arriving at the Romania-Ukraine border and in reception centres.
In Poland, Save the Children is assessing the situation along the border and preparing to respond to refugees and children in need.
In Lithuania, Save the Children is providing children on the move with safe spaces to play, learn and cope with the grief and loss they have experienced.