Moving to Support Children Fleeing Ukraine
March 2, 2022
Exhausted refugee children
At present, more than 830,000 people have fled Ukraine. The majority are seeking refuge in Poland, but also in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova.
At the border crossing in Siret, in northeastern Romania, local volunteers welcomed exhausted refugees, most of them women and children.
“We had to walk to the border and it took a very long time,” says six year old Platon, who left a suburb of Kyiv with his family while the flat they were living in was shaking from an explosion. “I got very, very cold so put on dad's coat - it almost reached the ground.”
While the family waited for five hours amidst the mass of people in front of the border gate, night fell. There was constant shouting; every time the gate opened a wave of people pressed forward and a border guard fired in the air.
IN AN EMPTY ROMANIAN GUESTHOUSE, PLATON'S FAMILY AND OTHER FAMILIES FROM UKRAINE ARE TAKEN CARE OF
Photo: Petar Masut
OVER 850,000 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES HAVE FLED THEIR HOMELAND
Photo: Petar Masut
Immediate support needed
Local Romanian civil society organisations are doing their best to shelter refugees, but they have few resources and little to no experience in providing assistance in situations of war.
The United Nations estimate that the number of refugees will continue to rise rapidly - up to four million people. The situation is deteriorating by the hour - more support is urgently needed.
We know from years of experience how important it is that children from conflict areas receive quality psychosocial support as quickly as possible.
“Children are confused, want to go home, but they don’t seem to have serious trauma yet,” says Eugenia Matuadinae, a child psychotherapist volunteering in a high school turned shelter. “Today, this is starting to change. The biggest problems are only just beginning.”
Psychological first aid training
War Child is preparing to train local organisations in psychological first aid and other mental health services. To address immediate dangers, we will also lend our expertise in child protection, exploring opportunities to set up War Child ‘Safe Spaces’ in Romania, Moldova and other vulnerable host countries.
There will be an added emphasis on the protection of children, because most of the refugees are women and children, who may be at an increased risk of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse.
WORLDWIDE, PEOPLE ARE PROTESTING AGAINST THE WAR IN UKRAINE - INCLUDING IN RUSSIA ITSELF
Photo: Roman Shavnya
Call for immediate ceasefire
“It breaks our hearts to see this happen again in Ukraine”, says War Child CEO Ramin Shahzamani. “We call for an immediate ceasefire. The war must stop now.”
“War Child and other humanitarian organisations must have unimpeded access to children and families affected by the armed conflict. All parties must fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law, including by ensuring that civilians and civilian objects, especially schools and hospitals, are protected from attack.”
Stepping up support
Families in northeastern Romania are being housed in schools, churches, holiday homes and guesthouses. Meanwhile, children are playing in rooms full of mattresses and scattered personal belongings.
They are safe, but their intense experiences of war and violence have travelled with them. For many families, the nightmare is only just beginning.
War Child is in close contact with local organisations in Ukraine, neighbouring countries and internationally to see how support can be stepped up in the near future.
No Child should be part of war. Ever.
Photo: Photo: Yura Khomitskyi