The pace of modern living is really high, and while moving so fast it is important to remember about those in need of help. Military conflicts, epidemics, man-made disasters, low living conditions, and other social problems create further difficulties for certain social groups and, above all, for children. Children appear to be more vulnerable when experiencing daily living and psychological problems, which is why they need help from both the state and the public at large.
United World Cultures Foundation has an increased focus on all problems faced by children and calls on everyone not to stand aside in solving them. We have prepared some information about the children’s problems existing in Ukraine and made a selection of the key public authorities and social services dealing with particular issues in particular areas.
In addition, on our website you can find a lot of useful information about various issues related to children and charitable activities in general, available in the section Helpful Information.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED CHILDREN
As a result of the military operations in Eastern Ukraine and temporary occupation of the Republic of Crimea, more than 166,000 children have been internally displaced. Alongside such daily living problems as finding a place to live, receiving sufficient material support, education and medical care, IDP families also face psychological difficulties associated with re-settlement. In order to overcome the above problems, internally displaced children need support from the state and the entire community.
CHILDREN WHO HAVE SUFFERED AS A RESULT OF THE ANTI-TERRORIST OPERATION
According to UNICEF, 580,000 children have suffered as a result of the military operations in Eastern Ukraine, including more than 159 injured and 65 killed. Two years of artillery shootings, fires, and fear, have left an indelible imprint on thousands of kids. Children are frequently made orphans losing a parent who dies in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) area, become disabled, shell-shocked and psychologically injured, lose documents, live without water, heat, power supply, and have to go to school under the sounds of explosions. All these kids desperately need help to give them hope for a happy childhood.
More than 151,000 disabled children in Ukraine need continuing medical care. Among causes of children’s disability, first come congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities accounting for 30 %, second – diseases of the central nervous system accounting for 17.9 %, and third – mental and behavioural disorders accounting for 13.9 %. In terms of age patterns, the major group of disabled children constituting more than 49 % is represented by school-aged kids between 7 and 14, followed by the group aged between 15 and 17 with the share of more than 23.7 %, and the group aged between 3 and 6 years with around 20%. All these children need support and assistance. So far, still unaddressed are the problems of municipal infrastructure being not adapted for special needs, and low employment rates among disabled people.
More than 100,000 orphaned and abandoned children are being raised in special state-run facilities. Among these children, only 10% are orphans, whereas the remaining 90% are children from troubled families and children abandoned by their parents. Despite the decline in child population from 13.6 million in 1991 down to 7.6 million in 2015, the number of child care facilities and their inmates does not keep the same pace of decrease. The reason for this may lie in the complicated social and economic environment in the country, increase in the number of births resulting from unintended pregnancies, lower responsibility levels of young parents, all leading to care facilities receiving continuous inflows of abandoned children and children whose parents are deprived of parental rights.
CHILDREN FROM TROUBLED AND LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
Children in such kind of families meet troubles in the basic life necessities such as quality food, education, housing, and a healthy family in every sense. Many of these kids become social orphans while they still have living parents and are placed to orphanages. Of course, a child care facility will never replace a real family. These children really need assistance – both financial and psychological.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG ADDICTED CHILDREN
In Ukraine, the unnerving statistics about children’s alcohol and drug abuse persist over time, showing that 40% of children drink alcohol, and many of them at the age of 11-12 are well familiar with the state of alcoholic intoxication. Furthermore, 1% of children aged 12-13 drink alcoholic beverages every day. According to the statistics, 20% of all drug addicts are children and teenagers, and if earlier the problem of children’s drug addiction was limited only to inhalant abuse, today children increasingly start to experiment with “adult” drugs. The negative contributor pushing kids to use drugs is most frequently reported to be the adverse family climate.
CHILDREN WHO HAVE SUFFERED FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
An ideal family is the paradise for a child where he or she may hide from threats of the unknown outside world. However, for many families their own home is more dangerous than the streets. Domestic violence is the long-repeated situation where one family member strives to make another one completely submissive by causing psychological, physical, sexual, social, economic damage to one or more family members. According to UNICEF, in Ukraine 70% of children under 14 suffer from physical or psychological punishments.
CHILDREN PLACED IN PENITENTIARY FACILITIES
According to the statistics, as of 1 July 2016, corrective service offices have 1,853 children on their records. Noteworthy, it is the family that plays a key role in shaping the child’s personality. In many cases, the environment existing in the family is adverse for child-raising. Family upbringing deficiencies give rise to deviations in teenagers’ moral development and attitude building, which in turn leads to committing offences and criminal practices with grave consequences.
Every year, the increasing number of children worldwide are being moved to other countries or regions with the purpose of their exploitation in forced illegal labour, sexual exploitation, making child pornography, or with the purpose of their adoption for begging. Children’s rights are infringed, they are turned into the goods that can be sold, bought, moved, and re-sold. Children are forced to beg, used for work in households, plantations, construction sites, mines, industrial production facilities.
CHILD RAPE VICTIMS
Physical violence is the most widespread child abuse practice. In some cases, physical abuse is accompanied by sexual one. Statistically, one out of every four girls and one out of every ten boys become victims of sexual offences before they reach the age of 18; every six minutes a rape is registered in the country, and in a half of registered rapes a victim, a rapist, or both are under 20 years old.
HIV INFECTED CHILDREN
The main route of HIV transmission for children in Ukraine is the so called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). The number of HIV infected pregnant women has doubled over the last five years. At the forefront of the HIV epidemic in Ukraine are minors from the highest risk groups. So far, little attention has been paid to ensure their access to medical and social services. Over the first six months of 2016, the total of 7,612 new HIV cases have been registered in Ukraine (with 1,365 of them being children under 14 years old). High rates of the HIV epidemic lead to the continued growth in the number of children living with HIV.
CHILDREN WITH CANCER
Unfortunately, so far child oncology continues to be a pressing social, economic and medical problem in Ukraine. For each one hundred thousand children there are approximately 11 cancer cases (one thousand of new patients per year). The country’s hospitals have on record nearly 5,500 children with various cancer types. Notably, if before 2005 thyroid cancer prevailed in Ukraine, today’s most frequent diagnosis accounting for up to 49% is brain cancer and leucosis, which approximately meets the statistics in developed European countries.
CHILDREN SUFFERING FROM HARD-TO-CURE DISEASES
Apart from deathful diseases that typically compel the public attention, there exist quite a number of hard-to-cure diseases suffered and struggled against by children. They include congenital and genetic diseases, heart defects and other cardiac diseases, autoimmune diseases, infantile cerebral paralysis, virus infections, acute respiratory diseases, autism, and many more. What these ill kids need is, first of all, early and high quality diagnostics and treatment, as well as psychological support.
Low family income that often does not exceed even the minimum subsistence amount per person, forces children to start working. In these cases, working hours for 6% of child labourers aged 13-14 are longer than those for adult workers, and 2% of girls and boys aged 15-17 work more than 56 hours per week. The average age at which children start working is 12. Research findings have revealed 465,000 of working children in Ukraine. Most of them (46%) are engaged in agriculture, trade (26%), and services (19%).
STREET CHILDREN AND MISSING CHILDREN
Around 100,000 children in Ukraine run the streets. These are mostly children who have been abandoned by their parents or runaway children who have escaped from families or child care facilities where they were raised, now having no fixed abode. This group also includes uncared-for children from troubled families affected by alcohol and drug abuse, other amoral practices. As a result, children are left unattended and neglected: they live in the streets, basements, try to warm themselves on sanitary sewer manholes and heating pipelines, beg, steal things, etc.
CHILDREN WHO HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO CRIMES
Every day, crimes of different gravity are committed throughout Ukraine, and a certain share of them is done to children. Children represent one of the most vulnerable social groups and they cannot usually stand up to offenders, which the latter take advantage of. It is a frequent case that children become victims of such crimes as bodily injuries of varying severity, including caused by traffic accidents, thefts, burglaries, robberies, as well as sexual offences.