Once one of Ukraine's most important industrial centres, the local economy has declined significantly since independence from the Soviet Union, throwing many people into unemployment and poverty.
A Soviet legacy of declining prospects
When Ukraine left the Soviet Union in 1991, Lugansk – a city once teeming with industrial activity – began to fall into decline. Factories closed and mines were shut down, and as unemployment rose, social welfare was also cut. Many of the city's families left the area in search of work elsewhere. Twenty years later, households still struggle to make ends meet.
As times have become increasingly tough, some people in Lugansk have turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the despair. As a result, many children suffer neglect, abuse, and even abandonment, while others are simply unable to live with their parents. Domestic abuse is widespread in Ukraine – one third of today's adult population suffered from abuse as children.
Abuse, neglect and institutionalised care
Children from deprived backgrounds are at the highest risk of abandonment. Those most in danger are children raised by single or unemployed parents struggling to feed extra mouths. Others include those in the care of grandparents, and also children with disabilities, whose parents receive relatively little support.
When children lose parental care, many are placed in Soviet-style orphanages where overstretched staff are unable to provide for children's basic needs. Some former inmates of Ukrainian orphanages report suffering abuse, while others recall being incorrectly labelled as “incapacitated” and sent to a psychiatric institution. The state is acting to address these concerns but too many children are suffering now.
SOS Children's Villages in Lugansk
We support struggling families
We believe that every child needs a mother and a family to grow up happy and fulfilled. In partnership with the local government, we work to help over 150 of the most vulnerable families in Lugansk cope with the pressures they face and offer a safe, secure upbringing for their children. Our team work directly with these families to help them overcome whatever challenges they face; helping parents support their children financially and provide for them emotionally.
We provide homes for children with no one else
We also select, train and support foster families who provide stable, short-term care for children while we work with parents to resolve whatever crises they may be facing. For all our efforts, some children are simply unable to live with their parents. For these children, our SOS families provide a loving home in the care of a devoted SOS mother. Our family flats are located throughout the city, offering children the chance to grow up as part of their community.
In late 2013, many Ukrainians took to the street of the nation's capital to protest against the government and call for greater alignment with the EU. Other Ukrainians took a different view, preferring closer ties with Russia. As time wore on, unrest became particularly centred in the country's east, and in late spring 2014, Lugansk found itself in the grip of ongoing fighting.
In mid-June, SOS families living in Lugansk decided that the situation had become too dangerous and that the safety of their children was at risk. We worked with our partner agencies to provide shelter for them at social centres in the area outside Lugansk, keeping the children as close to their homes as possible. We are constantly monitoring the situation and are ready to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure all families remain safe.
We continue to work with families in the community, who remain in Lugansk.
You can help give Ukraine's most vulnerable children a mother, a family and a loving home. Please sponsor a child.