“Some of the families barely escaped with their lives,” says Lyudmila, director of our Village in Lugansk. “They have neither money nor documents with them.” With fighting raging in Lugansk city, many families have had no choice but to leave home for their own survival.
Targeting the most vulnerable
Lyudmila's team surveyed northern districts in Lugansk to establish where the need is greatest. The SOS team have begun work in the heart of this region; helping refugees in Starobilsk, Novopskovsky and Bilokarunakinsky, three of the districts where families are seeking refuge. Given the violent backdrop, Lyudmila is concerned for her team's safety as well: “We are trying to find a place in the region that will be safe enough for our office, and to help the families who have left Lugansk.”
The initial focus is on maintaining contact with refugees previously supported by our community projects in Lugansk itself. The city is now too volatile for SOS staff to enter, and mobile phone connections are down, making communication impossible. “Currently, we are only able to talk to people who left the city. We are now in contact with 37 families and 66 children.”
Stepping in to help overstretched social services
632 families and 1,073 are registered as refugees across the three districts. However, Lyudmila believes that this is only the tip of the iceberg: “We believe that there are more people from Lugansk living in those three districts. The local social services are waiting for us, as they cannot handle the situation.”
Primarily an agricultural region, northern Lugansk is simply not equipped to deal with a refugee crisis on such a large scale. People are without their basic needs, from housing and medicine to money and school equipment for children. Beyond the basics, traumatised children need counselling and psychological support while parents need jobs to support their families. Diabetes is a rising problem among children in Ukraine, and many young refugees are missing out on the critical medication they need to stay healthy.
“We are tired, so tired... All we want is stability”
Lyudmila's team are pouring all their energy and resources into reaching vulnerable families as they try to make their way in a frightening and unpredictable world. Tragically, the crisis goes far beyond Lugansk. The UN estimates that over 1 million people have been forced from home since the conflict began, with over 800,000 having crossed the border into Russia.
Like all Ukrainians, Lyudmila is tired and frustrated: “We cannot plan anything; we don't know how long this will go on. The only thing we know is that there are a lot of families who need help. We are all shattered. We are tired, so tired of this situation.” As ever, it is ordinary people who suffer the consequences of political turmoil: “In our team we have both Ukrainians and Russians - we often talk about the situation. We all want stability. All we want is to go home to Lugansk.”
With the help of our supporters, Lyudmila and the team can reach the most vulnerable children in Lugansk. Your kindness can help make a difference:
Alternatively, learn how you can change a Ukrainian child's life through child sponsorship.