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Red Card for child neglect: Football to protect child rights in Ukraine

© UNICEF Ukraine / 2009
At the launch of the project in Ukraine

UNICEF, the Ukrainian Premier League and the Football Club Maestro unite to address child neglect in Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine - 26 February 2009

Today the UNICEF project Red Card for Child Neglect was launched in Kyiv with a football match that brought together the most at risk adolescents, Ukrainian celebrities, as well as UNICEF and Premier League staff.

The 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 for 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 Premier League on this initiative, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, Jeremy Hartley, said: “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”, Tymoshenko added. 

About the project Red Card For Child Neglect

This project is initiated by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in conjunction with the Premier League and Football Club Maestro and implemented by the civil society organizations «Way Home» (Odesa), «Caritas» (Kyiv), «Our home - Ukraine» (Donetsk). The members of the football teams are children from crisis families and shelters and young people working or living on the streets. The project aims to attract public attention to the problems of the most at risk adolescence, including child neglect, HIV/AIDS and discrimination and to prevent risky behaviour by engaging them in football. The football competition will take place in Kyiv, Odesa and Donetsk with participation of the Ukrainian celebrities, famous singers and sport stars – members of the football club “Maestro”.

The goal of the Project supported by UNICEF Ukraine is to advocate for the rights of children and social rehabilitation of children and youth living or working on the streets by conducting a National Football Championship among the teams from three pilot regions. In addition, the Project will identify children who have difficult situation but not yet living or working in the street and will also engage them in street football teams in pilot regions. 

Street children and children from crisis families in three pilot cities of Ukraine (Kiev, Odessa, and Donetsk) are participants of a Football championship Red Card for Child Neglect. On its first pilot stage project aims to involve over 100 children from three cities and it’s envisaged to expand the initiative to at least 5-10 cities. 

For more information, please contact:

Veronika Vashchenko, UNICEF Ukraine, +38-044-230-2430,
Anna Sukhodolska, UNICEF Ukraine, +38-044-230-2514,




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