Kids in the zone of hostilities: how to help them? BLOG by Oleksandr Vyshniakov, the director of the Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Centre
Perhaps, my most powerful impression of traveling to demarcation line is the eyes of local kids. Those mature and restless eyes. The same for the fourth year in a row. They grow up already accustomed to the conditions which are unbearable for most adults. What is at issue here is not excesses or childish whims.
A million of Donbas children need humanitarian assistance. Over the past year, this figure has almost doubled. According to UNICEF data 12 thousands of children live in the settlements, shelled at least once a month. Children in the "grey zone", the epicentre of combat operations, are endangered and malnourished regularly. The smaller the settlement and the stronger it suffered from shelling, the greater the need of families. Single mothers and families with many children are in particular need.
Three years ago, when the Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Centre started issuing food kits, we saw a huge need for baby foods. Thus there appeared the program of helping families with children aged from birth to 35 months with children food packages.
What is the program to provide children with food packages?
- Every kid aged 0-35 months receives help. Until February 2017, 85% of all our children packages were issued on the uncontrolled territory. The children also go on receiving constant support on the peaceful territory of the region and in the "grey zone". Up to date, about 870,000 children packages have been issued.
- The packages differ depending on the age of the child. The older the baby, the more rich and diverse the package in useful substances. For children from 0 to 11 months, we offer 2 types of packages: the one to support a nursing mother or the other consisting of infant formulas (in case of artificial feeding). Children from 12 to 35 months gradually switch to adult nutrition and receive appropriate food packages.
- We care for healthy nutrition of infants. We co-worked with UNICEF and the World Health Organization in Promotion of breastfeeding. We took over the experience and shared it with the mothers. We have been issuing special food packages to support nursing mothers in the war zone for 2 years. Thanks to this project, they had an opportunity to make the right choice and to breastfeed instead of bottle feeding. More than 13 thousand women who needed advice on feeding a baby received online consultations and via the Humanitarian Centre hotline.
- We do our best to improve the provision of assistance. The sets of children packages have been reconsidered more than once. All products in them are of exceptionally high quality and are purchased directly from Ukrainian producers.
- Products for children which are delivered to the front-line towns and villages undergo a 5-stage quality control system: from the purchase of products to issuing the package to parents’ hands.
- In the "grey zone" there is a particularly difficult situation because of the lack of necessary products. Our mobile delivery teams continue to deliver children packages even to the most shelled and hard-to-reach villages along the entire demarcation line - from Talakivka to Opytne and Zhovanka. Even if there are only three children for the whole village, those children receive food regularly.
The war-effected children have very "specific" desires and needs, when compared with those living a peaceful life. It's terrible that what they need most is basic protection and food.