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Ukraine: "The hardest part is in the head".

July 11th, 2022

The situation in Ukraine is still very delicate, but Terre des hommes (Tdh) is doing its best to help displaced children and their families. Whether in neighbouring countries that have taken in large numbers of refugees, such as Moldova, Romania and Hungary, or within Ukraine itself, the needs to be met are varied.

Photo from Terre des Hommes Lausanne, taken in Ukraine
Photo from Terre des Hommes Lausanne, taken in Ukraine

From the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the Tdh teams in Moldova, Hungary and Romania launched an emergency response by providing support in reception centres as well as in railway stations, where children and mothers needed it so much. In Ukraine, the immediate priority was the safety of Terre des hommes staff working in the east of the country and in the capital Kiev. However, since May, Tdh has been active in the west of the country. The aim is to help displaced families in the interior.

Ten Tdh teams to help children

We have set up ten mobile and stationary teams made up of several specialists in different fields such as social workers, animators and psychologists. These teams work hard, firstly, to assess the needs of the local population, especially the youngest. Then, in order to ensure a relevant response to the various emergency needs, previously identified.

In concrete terms, what are these needs and what is Tdh doing to meet them? "It is very difficult to respond to all the requests because the situation in the country is chaotic. There are, of course, needs for food, hygiene, money, etc., but many people ask for information, psychological help, logistical assistance or other. Moreover, the displaced are constantly on the move, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to follow up," says Rehina Chulinina, Tdh Ukraine's child protection field worker.

It is true that we are witnessing an unprecedented migration crisis due to a particular reality; namely that the majority of Ukrainians fleeing their homes will certainly never go to a reception centre. "The migration flow is absorbed by local communities, friends, families or even strangers. We have to go and find these people and help them, we can't just wait in the reception centres", explains Arina Cretu, Tdh Communication Officer for Europe and Asia.

The invisible scars

Beyond death and physical injury, war leaves enormous scars, invisible at first sight. Entire populations are affected by the psychological trauma and suffering that this causes. Conflict and forced displacement have a profound, and sometimes irreparable, impact on children's mental health. "We must protect children from the horrors of war and ensure their access to humanitarian assistance, education and care. We must also invest in children's mental health and psychological well-being. This should be the cornerstone of the country's recovery efforts," says Barbara Hintermann, Executive Director of Tdh.

"Children tell us that they miss their homes, their friends, their families, everything they knew. They want everything to stop so that they can go home and go back to school," says Rehina, with some emotion. In addition to the difficulties already experienced, our teams face and will face in the future many challenges, as Arina lists: "some displaced people want to return home despite the danger, it is difficult to access all the communities, there is a lot of movement in the different regions, the schools will reopen in September but the situation is complex and many children are at risk of dropping out of school, we must already start preparing for the next winter and there is also an element that people tend to forget; children who have not been displaced and who live in 'safe' areas are just as much in need of psychosocial support because the bomb alarms are sounding continuously, and fear and little future perspective are ever-present in their minds. "

As the war continues, addressing the urgent needs of children, youth and families, as well as providing adequate psychosocial support, is essential to give hope to future generations.

See the original news article on the website of Terre des Hommes Lausanne. And discover different video testimonies of our collaborators present at the heart of the conflict

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