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Checking in on children affected by conflict

23 August 2022, Impact of Our Work, Voices from the Field

As support pours in for children affected by conflict, many more are in need of help

When conflict escalated in Ukraine on the 24 February 2022, news headlines were filled with images not only of destructions made by bombs, but also of families escaping to seek safety across the border. Photos of children bundled up in warm coats captured the hearts and minds of many, as families headed for the roads amidst freezing temperatures. 

Six months on, we ask: How are the children coping? 

Summer camps help recover from trauma 

A summer camp supported by Save the Children in Poland shows the tangible impact from gifts made by generous donors. 

There our team met 10-year-old Myron*, a refugee child from Ukraine, who animatedly talks about his favourite football players, as well as boast about his table tennis skills. 

“It’s very cool here … There is table tennis. So I was playing table tennis, and I have managed to knock the ball fifty or fifty two times with my racket,” he says. Listening to Myron’s banter, it’s incredible to think that only a few months back, this energetic boy was on the road with his mum, fleeing from violence.  

At the summer camp, Myron enjoys the many fun activities and gets a chance to practise communicating in Polish. Together with the other children, he receives support from a psychologist to help with his mental health and wellbeing, and deal with the trauma of leaving home and witnessing the atrocities of war.  

Here (at camp) I became friends with two girls, we sit and do things. And other than that, I can talk to everyone. I have been at a summer camp before but it was not as much fun as here.

Myron

The summer camp engages children of all ages through sports and crafts, relaxation sessions and excursions. It is attended by a mix of Ukrainian and Polish children, which supports the refugee children to make friends in their new community. 

Anna, a psychologist, reports seeing a difference in the children after only a few days. “Although it's only the third day, we already see a change in communication, above all in intimacy and the desire to open up,” she says. 

At the camp, the positive mark made by the compassion of donors is undeniable.  

Anna says, “I want to thank the sponsors of this summer camp. And to say that they are doing a very big job. It is very big and heart-warming. It is the sincerity that our children are lacking now ... I’m very glad that there are people who want to do this for Ukrainian children.” 

A safe space to be a kid again 

A child-friendly space in Zaporizhzhia is providing opportunity for 6-year-old Ihor* and his 10-year-old sister Katia* to socialise, after leaving their friends when they fled their home. Their mother Polina* says, “We left all our friends at home, it's stressful for the children, they have no one to go out with.” 

As soon as Polina heard about the child friendly space, she didn’t lose time signing up. “We signed up for classes and came. My children go to art space. They draw, sculpt, make something...”  

Yurii, a psychologist, shares, “There is an improvement in the psycho-emotional state of the child through playing, drawing… They draw, they live out their feelings, they will react to them, this is also important. Also, any physical activity helps children improve their psycho-emotional state.” 

The benefits are felt not only by children but also parents like Polina. While Ihor and Katia go to the child friendly space, Polina attends classes on parenting where she learns how to help her children deal with stressful situations.

Save the Children provides practical support to our local partner Smile UA, who runs the friendly space in Zaporizhzhia. Donor support helps us provide equipment and educational materials for children, and helps for us to exchange knowledge through lectures and trainings. 

Yurii says, “The most important thing is that this help, you can touch it, you can feel it. That is, the people and children who come, they immediately see it. This is directly on the ground and immediately the work is done.” 

Around the world children feel the effects of conflict 

The conflict in Ukraine has dire effects on children globally. As food and fuel prices skyrocketed as the result of war, families especially those in already fragile areas like Syria, Yemen and the Horn of Africa are struggling.  

In places like Somalia, the increased costs of living made worse by the situation in Ukraine is compounded by the effects of another disaster – a long running drought that is depleting water and food sources. Hunger is causing severe acute malnutrition. And it affects children most of all.  

With the help of donors, we have taken important steps to reach children affected by the conflict in Ukraine. But clearly many more children are still being affected, and are on the brink of survival. 

*Names have been changed to protect identity. 

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