Real lives

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Young activist asserts the rights of her HIV-positive peers

Liuda is sure that prevention will help her to give birth to a HIV-free baby

Prevention and treatment will make it possible for HIV-positive Kateryna to give birth to a healthy baby

Social workers provided care when all other people gave up on dealing with me, Maria says

Hard life is hard to change

An attempt to start a new life

What matters in life – success in football

Vinnytsya Becomes More Child-Friendly

Korosten Became More Friendly to Children with Disabilities

“Football gives me different life”

Football did not let him down

There is a way out. Widening a range of services for the most-at-risk adolescents in Mykolaiv region

A mistake in your life is not a full stop; it is a comma

A Boy from Odessa: from the street life to the dream of becoming a famous footballer

Changes that save lives: a story of success

Children with special needs: “To be not worse than others!”

From darkness to light: A social worker’s story

A true meaning in life: success with football

If to compare him today and then – it’s as different as day and night

Indifference may ruin lives: Children who No one Helps

A better life for at-risk girls in Ukraine

Hope in darkness - Olena’s story

Street children in Ukraine are among the most vulnerable groups to get HIV/AIDS

“Fathers are as important for newborns as mothers”

Child development in Chernobyl-affected Ukraine

Anastasia Polishchuk: “We thought that our child was just cutting teeth and we almost lost her because of meningitis”

“I had never even dreamt of such wonderful big family...”

Mediation as Implementation of the Right of the Child to Legal Protection

Sebastien’s story: A young Haitian earthquake survivor speaks

Breast-feeding: a Woman’s Happiness, a and Society’s Maturity Test

God and the Sun

The Price of Safer Sex Goes Up

The Duties of Real Men

Joined Hands Can’t Be Wrenched Apart

A Perfect Future

I did not want my son to be an orphan

I will not give him up… I will not be able to live knowing my child is somewhere along…

HIV positive mothers in Kherson oblast in Ukraine know their children can be born virus-free

Children’s authority in the world of adults

“It’s Just a Bug”. The Story of One Unvaccinated Boy’s Struggle with Meningitis

Alina

 

Child development in Chernobyl-affected Ukraine

© UNICEF Ukraine/2010/M.Teshaiva
The UNICEF-EU partnership is aimed at addressing health needs of children affected by Chernobyl [Ukrainian girls at the playground]

The health of children living in the Chernobyl-affected regions of Ukraine is currently determined not by the level of radiation around them, but rather by their living conditions, and the knowledge and practices of their parents. In 2009, the European Union (EU) and UNICEF started a new project to improve access and quality of mother and child health-care services in the four oblasts in the Central and Northern Ukraine affected by the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl - Zhytomyr, Sumy, Rivne and Chernigiv. 

Roadside playground

This is Rivne oblast. Down the country road we see a seven-year-old girl, who leads her younger brother by the hand. Little Roma is five years of age. His left hand is broken. “What happened?,” I ask his sister.  “He fell down from the haystack in the yard where we played,” is the answer. 

There is a bus stop about 200 metres away from the place where we spotted our little friends. This is the place where

local children have arranged a makeshift playground – they run around, jump and play football on this dusty strip of roadside land. While adults and older children сarry out household chores, middle children pick up the youngest ones and play here without parental supervision.

The children organize an excursion around the village for us. On one of the roads, local kids are engaged in their favourite “business” – they race ducklings around dirty puddles. Around the corner two dark-haired girls play behind the fence on the top of the sand hill among abandoned farming equipment. And finally, children lead us to the copse, where local kids wait in the line to swing on the village's only seesaw, carelessly attached to the treetops.

© UNICEF Ukraine/2010/M.Teshaiva
It’s critical to improve parents’ child-rearing practices in order to ensure the health and development of children living in the Chernobyl-affected area in Ukraine. [Galyna and her husband, parents of nine children – beneficieries of the UNICEF-EU project in Tomashgorod, Ukraine]

“Our Nation will Stand Forever

The village of Tseptsevychi is well-known throughout Ukraine for its birth rates. There are 412 children under the age of six, not to mention the older kids. At the same time, the village has neither a kindergarten nor playground for children to spend their leisure time safely and under the supervision of the adults.

“They closed our kindergarten 15 years ago,” says Lida, a 48-year old mother of 15 children – 10 boys and five girls. “The children who attended kindergarten were more developed,” she continues, stroking the head of her youngest daughter, 18-month old Sveta. Little Sveta and her mom regularly visit the local clinic to receive a course of therapeutic massage on her feet and to receive specialized counselling.

The problem is that paediatrician visits the “FAP” – the village first aid station - only once a week. In order to monitor the physical development of young children, he uses such “sophisticated equipment” as a measuring tape and scales with weights. However, in case of more serious injury or illness, parents have to bring their kids to a centre that is 20 kilometres away, and the road is barely paved.

How knowledge can support healthy child development

Considering the absence of adequate education and counselling programmes, the only source of information for young parents is the experience of their mothers, grandmothers or their own beliefs. Twenty-six-year-old Halya, the mother of four children, told us that when she lacked breast milk to feed her oldest daughter, she fed chicken broth and stewed fruit to her baby when she was only three months of age.  “When I was eating, Natasha reached out to my spoon and tried my meals. Well, she liked it, so I started giving her soup.”

While she obviously cares for her children, Halya – along with many other families in the region – could benefit from learning basic information on nutrition, healthy family lifestyles  and child development.  For instance, the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old. Also, simple things such as telling children story tales or drawing with them may help foster development. However, like the children playing alone along the roadside, her kids spend their leisure time playing on their own in the backyard, with the oldest child, who is only seven, supervising the younger ones.

While answering the question “What do you do to foster the development of your kids? Do you read fairy tales, do you draw, do you help them to develop their fingers?” the young woman said, “Actually the kids play in the backyard on their own. The older children play with younger ones. (The oldest child – Natalka – is 7 years of age).

“Such parental practices and care often lead to health-related problems in the future,” explains Olena Sherstyuk, Programme Officer of the UNICEF Ukraine’s Child Health and Development Programme. The joint UNICEF-EU project aims to support and educate parents on these issues.

“Unfortunately, the loss of potential in childhood in many cases is irreversible,” says Sherstyuk. “The first years of life, especially the first year after birth, is the most important for children. It is the period when the child’s development is the most intensive, including their mental abilities and formation of personality. This period lays the foundation for future health and social well-being. Children tend to develop better if they receive appropriate love, care, encouragement, attachment and recognition of their successes, as well as adequate stimulation of cognitive development, coupled with adequate nutrition and medical care,” she says.

“Poor nutrition of children leads to metabolism disorders and delayed physical and mental development; it is also the cause of frequent infectious diseases. The majority of parents are able to provide their kids with adequate nutrition, if they are aware of children’s nutritional needs and approach child care issues responsibly. This is why our project aims to improve parental knowledge and practices, and to establish a supportive environment for families and communities to ensure children’s healthy and complete development.”

***
Currently, UNICEF Ukraine implements the EU-funded project “Health Needs of Children Affected by Chernobyl.” One of the goals of the project is to establish Family centres in Rivne oblast. It is expected that these centres will offer the following services:

  • Preparing families to give birth to a healthy child; the functioning of the responsible parenthood school and Papa school;
  • Supporting families in creating a safe family environment to ensure harmonious physical, mental and social development of children;
  • Counselling on reasonable child nutrition (breastfeeding and responsive feeding, complementary feeding, etc.);
  • Family counselling on the prevention of childhood diseases and injuries;
  • Assistance to families on the development of healthy lifestyle skills.

As a result of this two-year project, UNICEF Ukraine will expand Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiatives, introduce parenting education programmes, and promote prevention of iodine deficiency in these areas.  Also, an information campaign will be conducted to raise awareness on health, nutrition, and good parenting among families and young people living on the territories affected by Chernobyl.  In addition, UNICEF will procure basic life-saving equipment for maternity hospitals such as warming lamps, tables for newborns, equipment to meet hygiene requirements and gynaecological equipment and diagnostic supplies for Youth-Friendly Clinics. 

This UNICEF-EU initiative is being implemented in close cooperation with the national government, social services, local authorities and municipalities, media and other partners.

 

 
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