Violence in Eastern Ukraine taking a heavy toll on children: UNICEF Assessment
KYIV, 1 July 2014 –The results of a psychosocial assessment of children in Donetsk oblast in Eastern Ukraine are deeply troubling, according to UNICEF and indicate that about half of all children aged 7-18 have been directly exposed to adverse or threatening events during the current crisis.
UNICEF conducted a Rapid Qualitative Survey of 204 children from Donetsk oblast in May 2014 with the goal of determining the degree, source and extent of children’s stress, their coping mechanisms, and the capacity of people in local communities to support them.
The assessment indicates that around half of all children aged 7-18 have been directly exposed to an adverse event, such as witnessing tanks or military vehicles, fights, people they know being beaten up, and people threatening others with guns. Several children had seen people who had been killed.
The majority of children reported feeling scared after seeing these events, experiencing negative emotional reactions, including fear, anger, sadness, and problems with sleep or concentration. The assessment indicates that many children in Donetsk oblast experience anxiety and stress. The evidence presented points to a worrisome situation: up to a quarter of surveyed children showed signs of heightened anxiety compared to norms for their age groups and nearly every second child felt scared recently.
The youngest children showed the most signs of distress. Children aged 3-6 showed significantly higher fear of blood and sudden, sharp noises than the norm. Boys additionally displayed higher fear of death, while girls displayed higher fear of pain than the norms for their ages.
According to psychologists contracted by UNICEF to conduct the research, the most prevalent problems from the crisis in children’s behaviour across all age groups are loss of concentration, anger and aggression. Anxiety and fear were also prevalent for all children.
Only a quarter of children aged 13-18 and about a half of children aged 7-12 said they received any help or support to deal with these experiences and feelings.
“Children of different ages have different vulnerabilities under current circumstances”, said Yukie Mokuo UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. “The fact that the majority of children in the older age groups say they can deal with negative feelings without help suggests that children would not reach out for support. Therefore pro-active “check-ins” is needed to support them.”
Ms. Mukuo stated UNICEF is working to provide psychosocial support to children in need and the organization is funding a national hotline for children and parents who are in crisis and in need of psychological support”.
A national toll free hotline on violence counteraction and child rights protection: 0 800 500 335 or 386 (for mobile calls).
While trying to assess parents’ preparedness to support children during the crisis the findings confirm that caregivers were not equipped to discuss the situation with their children and to teach children how to stay safe in case of military actions, but they want and need to be better prepared to be able to help children more.
Full report of the Rapid qualitative assessment is available at www.unicef.org/ukraine
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