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Boy from SOS SC Kiev
Ukraine is one of Europe's poorest countries, with a low life expectancy, high unemployment and Europe's highest HIV/AIDS rate. Life can be tough for Ukraine's poorest children, and unrest in 2013-14 has added to this instability. We support vulnerable families near Kiev and in Lugansk, and provide a home to children who cannot live with their parents. … more about our charity work in Ukraine

Ukraine violence: Vulnerable families at risk

The conflict has robbed many families of their homes, jobs and security, leaving children and parents scared and traumatised
The conflict has robbed many families of their homes, jobs and security, leaving children and parents scared and traumatised

July's air disaster threw Ukraine back into the headlines, but for families in Lugansk, the crisis has never gone away. Fighting in the city has driven well over half the population from home, and life is tough both for refugees and those who have stayed.

There is no best solution for families in Ukraine's ongoing conflict. Whether they stay or go, children will suffer trauma, and many families will face financial hardship and intense emotional strain. Lugansk has been at the centre of the conflict over recent months, and last week saw heavy shelling within the city itself.

Our team have seen homes, schools and workplaces destroyed, robbing families of all that is familiar, as well as the bricks and mortar they rely on for shelter and for their livelihoods. As employers vacate the city, job losses are on the increase and, inevitably, poverty is rising too.

A city torn apart

Existing problems are worsened. Children in desperate need of a good education to escape generational poverty cannot go to school. Struggling parents are losing the support that enables them manage the challenges of parenthood. When families are forced to evacuate their homes, children in particular suffer emotional and psychological trauma. Even coming home can be painful when familiar surroundings are in ruins. Children and adults alike face mental and physical health problems.

Before the fighting began, Lugansk was a city of 420,000 people. Today, it is thought that no more than 170,000 remain. SOS families were among those who left the city in June, but many SOS-supported community families chose to remain, unwilling to put their children through the upheaval and uncertainty of leaving home.

We continue to support these families, and will do so throughout whatever hardship they must endure. Our social workers are in regular contact with the families, and each family has a unique evacuation plan should this step become necessary. We are providing food, medicine and first-aid kits as well as counselling to ensure they have the material and emotional support they need to cope.

Helping families cope under pressure

This little girl is standing in her SOS family garden in Brovary, near Kiev
We are doing all we can to bring peace and stability to SOS families
forced to evacuate their homes by the fighting in Lugansk

Whatever support we offer, we cannot provide total insulation from the conflict around them. We have seen mothers and fathers lose their jobs; families lose vital state benefits; parents forced to move in with relatives because they cannot support their children alone. We can help families cope, but the only thing that can truly stop their suffering is an end to the violence.

SOS families have escaped the turmoil of wartorn Lugansk and we are currently providing accommodation in the wider region. We are in contact with key government agencies to ensure they get all possible support from the state, and local social workers are on hand to provide assistance. SOS social workers are also in regular phone contact with the families, and will pay monthly visits to ensure the children's individual care plans are on track.

Volunteers, friends and family have been instrumental in supporting families at this difficult time. Local schools have offered places to the children to ensure that their education suffers as little disruption as possible. All SOS families hope to return home to Lugansk as soon as they can, and everyone at SOS Ukraine longs for normality to resume.

Never have supporters like you been more vital to our work in Ukraine. With your support, we provide care and support to children facing the toughest challenges. Learn more and find out how you can help.