Ukraine – August 28 2018 Child speech disorders on the rise in war-torn Ukraine The Ukrainian conflict has prompted an increase in the number of children developing speech and language difficulties due to intense trauma, child psychologists working in the region have claimed. The five-year war has resulted in the destruction of homes, schools and communities and left children suffering the effects of prolonged stress and fear, bereavement and displacement. 250,000 children have been forced from their homes by the conflict and a million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Psychologists from SOS Children’s Villages, who have been working to support children and families in the region since before the conflict began in November 2013, report that symptoms include children becoming non-communicative, withdrawing from social interaction and demonstrating delays in the development of speech patterns. In Stanytsia Luhanska, a government-controlled region which suffered heavy damage at the height of the conflict, therapists at the SOS Children’s Villages social centre report that four out of five children present with speech difficulties. SOS Children’s Villages speech therapist, Oksana Bozova said: “Speech skills can be closely related to the psychological health of the child. What we see is that many of the speech problems are closely connected to their experiences during the war. “During the diagnosis, my first question to the parents is where the child was in 2014. Individualised care is needed for every child, and it takes time – months or sometimes a year.” The conflict, which persists despite an internationally supported truce in 2015, has led to a severe shortage of specialist care for children with developmental conditions. The only hospital in the area lost much of its diagnostic and treatment equipment during repeated bombings and many of the regions’ doctors were forced to flee during mass forced displacements in 2015. Ms. Bozova is the only known speech therapist left in the town and she divides her time between the SOS Children’s Villages social centre and the local hospital. SOS Children’s Villages is one of the few international organisations working on both sides of the contact line which separates the Luhansk region between Ukrainian-government administered and non-government-controlled areas. Their social centres in Stanytsia Luhanska and Sievierodonetsk are providing children with psychological care, education and recreational activities. They are also supporting families who have been impacted by high unemployment and the lack of government services which have accompanied the conflict. Since 2014, they have supported more than 57,000 people. SOS Children’s Villages is also working in Ukraine to provide: Healthcare for vulnerable families Mobile play buses for children in conflict areas Food, hygiene items and clothing for displaced children Support for displaced families to become self-sufficient Training for teachers, social workers and other specialists to identify trauma and assist at-risk children You can find out more about SOS Children’s Villages emergency relief work here. Notes to editors: For media enquiries please contact Lucy Prioli at Lucy.Prioli@sosuk.org or on 01223 222 974.