Unreported World broadcast on Channel 4 this evening (18 May) will highlight the situation for street children in Ukraine. The legacy of the Chernobyl disaster, significant levels of alcoholism and drug use, and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Europe has left many children in Ukraine without parental care, vulnerable and often alone on the streets.
Despite a government social worker claiming that there is likely to be no more than 15 young people living rough on the streets of Kiev, Unicef estimates the actual figure to be closer to 100,000 (although this figure includes children who spend their days on the street yet have a home to sleep in at night). The show highlights the shocking conditions young people living on the streets survive in, and the dangerous activities they fill their time with, such a glue-sniffing, to help them to deal with their situation.
SOS Children has been working as a charity in Ukraine for nearly a decade. Today we have three SOS Social Centres, two located in Brovary and one in the capital, Kiev. Our Social Centres provide support for vulnerable children, including those living on the streets, and ensure that they can access vital services such as medical care and counselling. SOS social workers are on hand to provide support and guidance to encourage children to receive an education and when they are older, find employment.
An SOS ‘playbus’ also travels around Kiev during the day, offering activities and educational resources for younger children. This service keeps children living on the streets occupied and provides an alternative to dangerous activities such as drug-taking. Natasha, who works on the SOS playbus, says: "Mostly we are playing different games with the children. The goal is to give the children the possibility to play instead of roving around aimlessly.” Through outreach work, social workers can identify street children in need of additional support, and direct them to the counselling services on offer at the SOS Social Centre.
SOS Children also work to prevent children from living on the streets in the first instance, through our Family Strengthening Programmes (FSPs), run by all three of our Social Centres. FSPs are designed to support parents to care for their children, avoiding family break-up and children being left alone. In Kiev alone, the families of over 200 children receive assistance from the FSP and are able to grow up with their parents.
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