Red Card to Child Neglect: football to Protect Child Rights in Ukraine
UNICEF, the Premier League and Football Club Maestro unite to address child neglect in Ukraine.
This initiative aims to address child neglect by engaging children and young people who are working or living on the streets in football and other sports.
There are no official statistics on the number of children and young people living and working on the streets of Ukraine, but estimates vary from 40,000 to 300,000. Often children and young people who are living on the streets are exploited and face forced labour. Some 31 per cent of girls and 7 per cent of boys among street children are the victims of sexual violence.
The majority of children who live on the streets consume narcotic substances: the longer children live on the streets, the higher is the level of drug use. According to recent data some 16 per cent of street children have experienced injecting drugs. Some 115,000 street children aged 10 to 18 are estimated to be very likely to be exposed to HIV infection and might be in need of HIV services
The Red Card to Child Neglect initiative unites the efforts of civil society, sport stars and prominent Ukrainians to give a chance for a better life and healthy lifestyle to children who are in crisis or in danger of ending up living on the streets. The project is initiated by UNICEF in conjunction with the Premier League and FC Maestro and will include football competitions in the cities of Kyiv, Odessa and Donetsk.
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between UNICEF and the Football Premier League on this initiative, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine Jeremy Hartley stated that “We have to unite the efforts of civil society champions and community and business leaders to address the urgent problem of child neglect, especially during the current economic crisis when it is even more important that children are protected”.
The right of children to play is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. “Football is one of the world most popular games and important element in children’s education. We want to take children away from the streets and to prevent risky behaviour by engaging them in football. We need a healthy and strong nation” said Premier League General Director Maksym Bondarev.
Celebrities play an important role in forming children’s opinions and raising awareness of the challenges faced by children. According to FC Maestro Director Dmytro Tymoshenko, participation of celebrities in the football team today will help attract public attention to the situation of children and young people who need special protection. “Each of us can change children’s lives for the better. It is time to take action to make a difference” he added.