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Saturday July 8 will mark 500 days since the escalation of conflict in Ukraine forced millions of people to flee their homes in search for safety. Since February 24 2022, people have endured psychological trauma, harsh winters and devastating flooding.
Concern has been there since the beginning, providing support through our implementing partners Charity Fund Posmishka UA where we can. 500 days later – with the aggregated complexity of the humanitarian context fluctuating day by day – we remain, shifting our focus to where it is needed the most.
The context: 500 days on
In May 2023, it was reported that approximately 18 million people, including 6.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), are affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Among these numbers are 7.5 million children. The immediate consequences of the conflict, including physical and psychological impacts, as well as the loss of critical infrastructure and basic services such as food, water, and medicine, are having a devastating effect on children, families, and communities.
Urgent humanitarian needs continue to include providing cash assistance for people to purchase essential goods upon their arrival in new locations. Additionally, there is a pressing need for child protection activities that offer comprehensive support, including mental health and psychosocial assistance (MHPSS), to vulnerable children. Strengthening the existing child protection system is crucial to address the acute distress, grief, physical harm, trauma, and uncertainty experienced by many.
The repeated targeting of critical infrastructure through shelling poses a significant threat to children's access to essential services. The ongoing shelling, bombardment, and expansion of the conflict zone have led to an alarming increase in conflict-induced deaths and injuries. The escalation in hostilities and the associated protection risks, such as sexual and gender-based violence, family separation, human trafficking, and severe distress, further exacerbate the vulnerability of children. Whether they are seeking shelter within Ukraine displaced and on the move, or seeking safety in neighbouring countries, many children are at heightened risk and require urgent support and protection.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support
Children and caregivers who remain in Ukraine or are displaced face immense pressure and are at an increased risk of experiencing anxiety, fear, and distress. Parents living in crises have expressed deep concerns about the well-being of their children. The physical and psychological consequences of the ongoing conflict create significant challenges for caregivers as they grapple with how best to meet their children's needs in such difficult circumstances.
Addressing the mental health and psychosocial needs of children affected by conflict is crucial for their overall well-being and development. By providing appropriate MHPSS interventions, such as psychosocial support activities, children can be supported in coping with the traumatic experiences they have endured. Creating safe and nurturing environments, for both those who are displaced and local population, is essential for their healing and recovery.
In addition to immediate MHPSS support, it is important to focus on long-term strategies to promote resilience and well-being among children. This can involve ensuring access to quality education, providing opportunities for recreational activities, strengthening community support networks, and promoting social integration. By addressing the holistic needs of children affected by conflict and providing them with the necessary support, we can help mitigate the long-term negative impacts and foster their healthy development.
Multipurpose Cash Assistance Programme
The Multipurpose Cash Assistance Programme was delivered through close collaboration and coordination with the relevant authorities in Ukraine. This included working closely with the Department of Social Policy and the Centres for Social Services. These institutions play a crucial role in providing support to the most vulnerable children and their families within the communities. This cooperation allowed us to provide essential financial support to those who have been forced to flee their homes due to the ongoing conflict. This programme aimed to address the immediate and diverse needs of IDPs, empowering them to make choices and meet their most pressing needs based on their individual circumstances.
Impacted families face various challenges, including the loss of livelihoods, limited access to basic services, and the disruption of social support networks. By providing cash assistance, the programme aimed to enable people to regain some control over their lives and prioritise their most urgent needs, whether it be food, shelter, healthcare, education, or other essential items and services.
Fifteen-year-old Ganna* family’s home was partly destroyed by shelling, while some of the family was at home. Ganna was very scared for herself and her younger brother Danylo*, who was just one years old at the time. Danylo, who was already starting to talk, lost his speech due to stress. Ganna was extremely anxious. Ganna was unable to attend school, and did not have any access to education online because there was no internet.
Constantly hiding in shelters led to isolation and anxiety. Our PSS team worked with Ganna and her family for three months. They had group sessions, and Ganna was involved in the community-level event as part of the project. The situation has changed a lot for the better: Ganna now goes to a local school where she has made friends. Her brother Danylo recently started talking, much to the delight of the family. Ganna's mother, Oksana*, finally got a good night's sleep, saying: "I stopped dreaming of tanks and planes. After your recommendations, I became calmer and I don't wake up at night. Thank you for your support.”
Crying, Ganna told us: "When I moved here, I didn't know anyone and I really missed my friends and my destroyed home. When your team came to us for the first time, I remember how you asked me what I would like to do, but I didn't want to do anything. But you offered everything: art therapy, sand therapy, relaxation to music, board games, and still found a way to get me out of that terrible state. I wanted to live again, make friends, communicate with people, I am very grateful to you."
Thanks to the MHPSS programme, Ganna and her family were able to adapt to their new life.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals
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