We have been working in Ukraine for 18 years and have built up a large network of partners with whom we have a long-standing and close relationship. Our primary focus has been on working to ensure that children live in safe families rather than on the streets or in large institutions. During the 2014 crisis, we made special efforts to ensure that children who were forced to flee Eastern Ukraine would not be separated from their families and end up in orphanages.
Today, we are actively working to raise awareness and prevent child sexual abuse, and to strengthen safety nets around LGBTQ youth and children and young people with disabilities – two groups that were already living in great vulnerability before the war broke out.
As a result of the grave situation that has now arisen, we have intensified our work and are in close dialogue with both current and former project partners, all of whom are under extreme stress.
Our project partners are grassroots organizations working locally with wide networks of contacts. They express great concern that sexual abuse of children will increase as a result of the war, as well as hate crimes against children who identify as LGBTQ. In addition, while our project partners continue their important work to protect children, they are currently organizing humanitarian relief efforts in their local area.
“We are in close contact and keep a line open to them around the clock. In times of crisis, you don’t know from one day to the next what things will look like. It’s incredibly important that they feel they have our full support, that we are flexible and proactive. Our commitment goes beyond the professional. It’s about being a fellow human being and giving hope,” says Susanne Drakborg, responsible for Childhood’s projects in Ukraine since 2007.
Our initial support
Our initial priority was to support our project partners on a broad front. In addition to ongoing dialogue and advice, we scaled up our financial support in two ways:
1. Crisis support to our local partners in Ukraine to ensure they can continue their important work and provide security for staff.
2. Emergency relief through our large network of grassroots organizations working locally. This can involve buying baby food, milk substitutes or blankets for local children.
Intensifying our work in Ukraine
On April 4th, Childhood’s Board of Directors decided to intensify our efforts to protect children affected by the war in Ukraine. These efforts are being implemented in Ukraine as well as in neighbouring Moldova and Poland, where we have well-established programme activities.
Our efforts are carried out with the help of our strong network of local actors that we have built up over two decades. This ensures relevance and sustainability, these people know the local needs and conditions – and they remain even if or when international interest does not. As the needs are both urgent and long-term, our financial support will be provided over time to ensure the quality and sustainability of the response.
Below, we describe how we contribute to the safety and security of children affected by war through various interventions and specialized partners:
- Preventing the separation of children from their families
Children who are forced to flee without their parents or are separated during their flight may end up in the hands of traffickers and trafficked or placed in orphanages. We contribute to safe places with safe adults where children can be children while their parents sort out their lives.
- Safe family home placements for unaccompanied children
Children who were already living in orphanages before the war broke out, as well as children who have lost their parents because of the war, need safe placements with adults who are there for them. We support the controlled placement of children, in particular by tracing relatives, keeping sibling groups together and ensuring that their rights are respected.
- Psychological support and trauma treatment for children affected by the war
Through chat support, support lines, support groups, mobile teams or in the Barnahus that Childhood helped establish in Poland and Moldova, children are provided with various forms of professional psychological support and treatment in their own language.
- Providing support to refugee parents
Traumatized parents may “lose” the ability to protect their children from other risks, such as abuse, especially in a chaotic refugee camp. Methods such as trauma-informed care help parents deal with their own trauma while supporting them to help and be safe for their children.
- Emergency relief and protection for children and families in Ukraine – survive and stay together!
Humanitarian aid such as food, water and diapers channelled through our network of local actors reaches children and families in the midst of war and can help them survive, stay together and evacuate. In the main, these efforts target groups that were already most vulnerable before the war, such as children in orphanages, children with disabilities and children from marginalized groups.
- Use tech to find children and track perpetrators
We are exploring how technological tools, developed partly by Childhood, can be used to help identify children who have been separated from their families and also to track sexual abuse material on the internet in order to raise the alarm about any increase or development.
- Training for those who meet children
Through training and collaboration, we can help raise awareness and knowledge among the various actors who encounter children along the entire refugee route, such as border guards, translators, social workers, volunteers or staff in emergency shelters. With care and attention to risks, such as trafficking, they know where to turn if something is not right and where the child can get help.
Child protection cannot wait
It is with great concern that we see how the war in Ukraine makes children easy victims of abuse, exploitation and trafficking. To ensure that aid efforts do not contribute to further trauma and risk, we need to build on three fundamental questions put together by us, SOS Children’s Villages and Erikshjälpen.
Questions to ensure the safety and protection of children
All efforts are needed to protect children and children’s rights
Wars and disasters make children vulnerable. Families are torn apart, children are separated from their parents and the risk of abuse, exploitation and trafficking increases. Below, our founder H.M. Queen Silvia, with a message that every effort is needed to protect children and children’s rights.
Ukrainian and Russian translations are available below the greeting on YouTube or here
Our current projects in Ukraine
Since before the war broke out, we have five active projects in Ukraine focusing on:
Preventing sexual abuse of children with disabilities
Our partner Healthy Society in Odessa, works to prevent violence and sexual abuse against children with intellectual disabilities. They work directly with families through psychological and social support and education, as well as training government officials, teachers and psychologists to strengthen children’s rights to a safe upbringing.
Protecting children and young people who identify as LGBT
The LGBT Association Liga in Nikolayev, Odessa and Kiev offers various support services for children and young people who identify as LGBTQ, a particularly vulnerable group. The project also trains school staff in non-discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ youth. This project is implemented in cooperation with the Rainbow Fund.
Keeping children safe online
The International Leadership and Development Center in Kiev, runs an evidence-based project to educate school children and educators about online safety.
Safe environments and relationships for Roma children
We have been working for many years with the grassroots organization Blaho in Uzhgorod to empower and support Roma children and their families – also a particularly at-risk group due to the discrimination they face – including through school preparation activities. The project also trains other non-profit organizations working with Roma children on how to prevent violence and sexual abuse.
National work to prevent violence and sexual abuse
Our partner NGO Resouce Center in Kiev, trains civil society organizations across the country on issues related to violence and sexual abuse against children. In this way, we can detect abuse earlier and ensure that more children across Ukraine receive good care and support and dare to speak out about what they have been subjected to. Just evacuated the office from Kiev to Ternopil.
Contribute to our work in Ukraine
There are several ways to support us and our partners.
DESCRIPTION OF THE HEADER IMAGE: Children’s rights patch in Swedish. Blue: Be fair to me. Yellow: No one must hurt me