August 14 2017

War Children: Inside Eastern Ukraine

During a recent visit to our programs in Eastern Ukraine, we discovered how war is crippling families and traumatizing children.

LUHANSK, Ukraine—It’s known as the “contact line.” It’s the frontlines of the violent conflict in Eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

More than 120,000 children live within three miles of the contact line. Every day, the children here are exposed to gunfire and have to hide in bomb shelters at least once per week, according to a recent United Nations report.

During a recent visit to a Ukrainian town just 200 yards from the contact line, an SOS Children’s Villages staff member met a 13-year-old girl named Inna. The girl showed her a stack of bullets she glued together to make a shape like a hockey puck. Every day, she and her father come across new bullets to add to the collection.

A bullet hole above the sofa in the living where Inna lives with her father in Eastern Ukraine.

"It's not safe to be in the attic or the rooms overlooking the south when it gets dark," said Roman, the father, adding that usually shootings occur at night. Inside the family’s home, there are bullet holes on the living room sofa and on the walls.

Not far from where Inna and her father live is another family suffering due to the violent conflict, now in its fourth year. Tanya, the mother and head of household, cares for her four children by herself. Her family is poor, which is due in part to the fact that her husband abandoned them.

Tanya is pregnant and due in September. "This is a not a place where you would wait to go into labor,” she said. The military checkpoints and potholes make it near impossible to make it to the hospital. Many expecting mothers end up giving birth on the side of the road.

Furthermore, the maternity ward of the hospital in the town is down to one gynecologist and struggles with medical supplies and instruments. Tanya has made arrangements to travel 75 miles to a different hospital. While she’s gone, her children will stay with their grandmother.

Tanya's children play outside their home near the dangerous frontlines of the war in Eastern Ukraine. 

SOS Children’s Villages (SOS) runs an Emergency Response Program in Eastern Ukraine. It’s one of the only organizations supporting vulnerable children and families on both sides of the contact line. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, in 2017 we have helped more than 13,500 children and parents.

"We deliver food to the families; hygiene sets, clothes and medicines for the children. All families with babies receive an infant kit and first-aid kits,” said Kateryna Profatylova, who works for the SOS Emergency Response Program in Eastern Ukraine.

“We regularly organize psychological group activities for children in the local schools and kindergartens, as well as educational and recreational activities," she added.

Since the violence broke out in March 2014, 2.8 million people have been displaced, including about 260,000 children, according to reports. Overall, 3.8 million people in Eastern Ukraine require humanitarian aid and 62,000 are considered “food insecure.”