Children hit twice by the Ukrainian conflict

Halyna Postoliuk and MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt

Brussels, 23 September 2015 – Today at the European Parliament MEPs and civil society organisations propose EU-led solutions to the humanitarian crisis hitting children in Ukraine. Inclusion of the transition from institutional to family-based care, as a priority for EU financial and technical assistance to Ukraine, is key.

Children in Ukraine risk being hit twice. Once by the war, and once by the child protection system’s flaws. A large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), around 1.46 million people including at least 184 900 children, lack basic necessities and adequate support from the Ukrainian Government.

The European Parliament Intergroup on Child Rights discussed these issues today in Brussels at an event titled “The Invisible face of the Ukrainian conflict: the impact on children”. Halyna Postoliuk, our Opening Doors campaign coordinator from Ukraine, was invited, together with MEPs and civil society organisations, to intervene and propose EU-led solutions for children.

“Our meeting today is a call for the European Union not to forget the most vulnerable victims in the conflict in Ukraine: Children. The figures are stunning, the stories are heart breaking. We, Europeans, should do more to protect and help them. We have to do all we can to keep them at the top of the EU agenda” said MEP and co-host Anna Maria Corazza Bildt.

Over 80 000 children are locked up in institutional care in Ukraine. Despite extensive evidence that institutional care is not only harmful to children but also a clear violation of their rights (1) , the Government of Ukraine has been investing in the post-soviet era institutional care. In 2013, they spent 5.7 billion UAH (approx. 240 million EUR) to fund institutions and in 2015 this amount has further increased. To aggravate the situation, a 2014 Government decision abolished 12 000 community social worker positions.

“The worsening economic situation, as a result of the conflict, has pushed 80% of people beneath the poverty threshold. Many are at risk of family separation, unless we take action” said Halyna Postoliuk, Opening Doors coordinator and Country Director of Hope and Homes for Children Ukraine.

The war has also exacerbated the situation of children who are already without parental care. To protect children’s lives, local authorities have removed around 14 000 abandoned children from non-government controlled territories and placed them in different institutions around Ukraine. The majority of these children have parents, with which they have lost contact as a result of the move, with little prospect of reunification. The more than 3 000 children left in institutions in non-government controlled territory are left dependent on volunteer aid donations to get food and clothing.

“The uncoordinated system of international donations is trying to cover the gaps in the child protection system by putting the money into institutional care facilities; these institutions are damaging to the children’s development and health. We should invest in bringing back these children to their families” said Halyna Postoliuk.

The Opening Doors campaign on ending institutional care calls on the EU to solve the root of this problem by including the transition from institutional to family-based care, as a priority for its financial and technical assistance to Ukraine, coherently with the provisions in the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. We also ask the EU to support the Ukrainian government in its preparation of a long-term strategy to help displaced children and families, including children left behind in non-government controlled area. Finally, we also call for more effective coordination of all types of humanitarian response provided by different donors and key international organisations.

Read the policy brief here.

1. Eurochild and Hope and Homes for Children, Deinstitutionalisation and Quality Alternative Care for Children – Lessons learned and the way forward, October 2014, available here.