Families on the contact line: help for children is crucial
UNICEF has partnered with Triangle Generation Humanitaire to provide vulnerable families who live along the contact line in eastern Ukraine with detergents and hygiene products.
UNICEF has partnered with Triangle Generation Humanitaire to provide vulnerable families who live along the contact line in eastern Ukraine with detergents and hygiene products. More than 1,300 families received e-vouchers that could be exchanged at stores for hygiene kits. This project was set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Living with lockdown and the echoes of conflict
Every day this spring and summer, Daria has heard children laughing and playing in the backyard of her house. Her daughters, seven-year-old Afina and four-year-old Valeria, have been staying at home since March due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I am happy that they are by me,” she says. “But I need to do the laundry every day when they are at home. It takes twice as much soap and shampoo.”
Along with her husband and daughters, Daria lives in the village of Chermalyk, a few kilometers from the contact line in eastern Ukraine.
“This morning we woke up to the sound of shelling again,” she says, pointing to the windows of her house that were boarded up in 2015 after a shell hit the backyard.
Artillery shelling has now stopped following a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, but the families in Chermalyk still feel the effects of the hostilities every day. Daria says little Afina’s diabetes mellitus has been aggravated by the stress she experienced due to the shelling.
“I can’t forget how my daughter came running barefoot, losing her shoes when she saw tanks on our street. She was shaking, she was crying.”
For the seventh year since the beginning of the armed conflict, Daria’s family, like most here in Chermalyk, must live with an unreliable water supply, financial strain and the threat of shelling. The COVID-19 pandemic has become another serious challenge.
“Buying extra hygiene products in the lockdown is an unforeseen expense,” says Daria.
Yuliia, another mother and resident of Chermalyk, adds that her family’s quality of life has decreased even further as a result of the lockdown.
“Before the lockdown, children used to eat lunch at school and in kindergarten, but during the lockdown, they stayed at home,” says Yuliia. “It means that we need more money to buy food for them. It’s very challenging for us.”
Her husband lost his job during lockdown. Her three children – Andrii, 9, Tykhon, 3, and Tamara, 6 – have also struggled without access to a playground or backyard.
The family rent a dilapidated brick house with cracks in the walls and plastic-covered windows. They do not have enough money to buy their own house.
“We weren’t able to raise money to arrange the garden and the backyard for several years,” says Yuliia. “And now, we lack money even for washing powder and shampoo for children.”
How help is bringing happiness
According to UNICEF, access to hygiene and cleaning products has become more important than ever during lockdown. Hand washing with soap is one of the most effective methods of prevention.
Daria and Yuliia say the electronic vouchers they have received thanks to a joint project by UNICEF and Triangle are a “huge financial support.” This is the third consecutive year that vulnerable families in Chermalyk have received the vouchers. Every family is able to exchange a 1,500 UAH e-voucher in a partner store for washing powder, baby soap, shampoos, toothpastes and plastic buckets for getting water from the well.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Daria and Yuliia’s families both began to wash their hands and clean more often, thereby using more hygiene products. According to Yuliia, the voucher covered the needs of her family for two to three months.
“I managed to get the children expensive shampoos and good quality toothpaste,” she says. “And I didn’t need to save on food to make these purchases.”
Yuliia’s neighbour Dasha is also grateful for the voucher. She lost her job at the beginning of the conflict and, since then, has stayed at home to look after the children. Her husband’s salary is barely enough for food, medicine and clothes for the children.
“Two large packs of powder are half my husband’s salary,” says Dasha. “So, when we received the voucher, it was just happiness.”
Daria agrees: “You know, international organizations have been helping us a lot since the beginning of the war. And we are grateful to everyone. But helping children is the most important thing. Such help in Chermalyk is invaluable.”
With the financial support from the Government of the United States, UNICEF and Triangle Generation Humanitaire provided e-vouchers to improve access to hygiene and cleaning supplies for families and healthcare facilities in eastern Ukraine. The project was implemented from May-July 2020. A total of 1,311 vulnerable families in 128 localities received e-vouchers. These vouchers could be exchanged for hygiene items at partner stores located in all areas along the contact line. In addition, 74 healthcare institutions received e-vouchers that could cover their need for hygiene and cleaning products for three months.
UNICEF thanks the Government of the United States for its continued support of children in eastern Ukraine.