Lugansk (also known as “Luhansk” in the media) is a major city in eastern Ukraine. Since independence from the Soviet Union, the economy of this once-thriving industrial centre has declined, throwing many families into poverty. In recent weeks, families in Lugansk have found them at the heart of Ukraine's ongoing political struggle, waking to the sound of gunfire and increasingly feeling the pinch as food prices rise.
“The shooting starts at 4am”
“The war has moved closer and closer to the city,” says Lyudmila Hartchenko, the director of our work in Lugansk. “Anxiety and sometimes panic is spreading.” Until this week, SOS families had chosen to stay put, hoping to keep disruption to a minimum for children who have suffered enough already. But as the fighting intensifies and local schools begin to evacuate children from the area, SOS families are also being forced to abandon their homes.
The situation is developing rapidly. “When the shooting starts at 4am and you can hear it very well, then this is completely different from the situation we had before,” says Lyudmila. A few weeks ago, when we invited SOS families to leave Lugansk at the end of the school year, many felt safe enough to stay. “Now, it's different, and during this week, we evacuate all SOS families,” Lyudmila says.
For now, families will stay in specially prepared living spaces at social centres and child protection offices elsewhere in Lugansk province. These centres are far enough from the conflict zone to keep families safe for the time being, while keeping children as close to home as possible.
An action plan for every family
We are continually reviewing the political situation to ensure all families stay as safe as can be. “Nobody knows what will happen, but of course we have a plan for each situation,” says Lyudmila. “We have worked out a security plan for each family – where they can escape to and how to do it safely.”
Much of our work in Lugansk is involved with supporting families in the community, helping them provide for their children and give them the best possible upbringing. Some of these families have already chosen to leave Lugansk. However, many have stayed, and we are continuing to support them as the war makes day-to-day life tough for families close to the breadline.
Inflation is currently running at 40-50%. Andriy Chuprikov is the director of our work in Ukraine. He explains what this means for families as basic necessities become unaffordable: “Prices for food have increased as well, but the biggest increase is for medicine. Unfortunately, the government has introduced a new tax for medicine, so the prices have doubled in some cases. Now it is almost impossible to afford medicine for a regular family.”
As the political and economic crisis worsens, jobs are cut as well. “We can see that we have more families who need help,” says Andriy. “The crises in families are deeper and there is a high risk that [child] abandonment is also on the rise. In the near future unfortunately we will probably have more children without parental care.”
It is during times like these this that your support is most vital. As families in Ukraine struggle with the dual pressures of political crisis and economic catastrophe, you can make a real difference by sponsoring a child.