SOS Children's Village Lugansk SOS Children's Villages has been present in Ukraine since 2003. In 2012, SOS Children's Villages started working in Lugansk to support families so that they can stay together, and to offer loving homes to children who have lost parental care. When the armed conflict started in 2014, we provided special assistance to those who were affected. Many families are struggling to make a living in difficult times Children in the care of SOS Children’s Villages take part in activities alongside local children (photo:SOS archives). Lugansk is a town with around 440.000 inhabitants located in south-eastern Ukraine. Before Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Lugansk was one of the country's largest industrial centres. As the economic circumstances of the country changed, Lugansk's economic conditions worsened in the mid-1990s. Factories and mines were shut, and unemployment increased. At the same time, there were cuts in social payments - many decided to move away, to other parts of the country or abroad, in search of employment. Over 20 years later many families continue to struggle to make ends meet. The recent armed conflict in the area has affected 4.4 million people, of whom 3.4 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. Families are in need of basic goods such as food and fuel for heating, as well as medical care and psychological support. An increasing number of vulnerable children There is a growing number of children without parental care. Children who are most at risk include those brought up by single parents, parents who are young or those who are unemployed. Children with disabilities and those living with elderly people - often members of the extended family- are also at risk. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of people addicted to alcohol and drugs; this often has a negative effect on family life. Children often experience family violence. A recent survey found that nearly half of the Ukrainian population has been a victim of domestic violence and that around one third suffered violence when they were children. Many children who lose parental care continue to be placed in institutions. However, alongside the Ukrainian authorities, SOS children's Villages has been working towards placing children in families instead. We are also working together to identify families who are struggling to care for their children; it is hoped that targeted support will keep the family together. What we do in Lugansk SOS Children’s Villages supports families who are living in areas that are affected by the conflict and where basic services do not exist (photo: K.Ilievska). The SOS Children's Villages provides different kinds of assistance: support to vulnerable families and children, especially those who have been forced to move due to the fighting, are going through a crisis or are living in areas affected by the conflict, and family homes for children who have lost parental care. We also work with the government to develop regional policies to improve the situation of children. Support for families: Throughout the region, we work closely with local agencies to support families who are at risk of breaking down. The families include those with low incomes or living in poverty, single parent families or those with children with special needs. We help parents so that they can continue to care for their children and ensure that the children are well looked after, and that they can go to school and visit a doctor. In 2017 we supported over 440 families with over 500 children. Care in families: When children can no longer live with their families, they can find a home in one of the families that receives support from SOS Children’s Villages. The family flats are integrated in the communities and are located throughout the areas surrounding Lugansk city centre. In some emergency cases, the children join our foster families for a short period until the situation is resolved. Support for young people: Given the unstable situation in the area, it is often hard for young people to become independent. SOS Children’s Villages provides support, training and activities so that they can live from their own means. Emergency programme: We provide medical, educational, psychological and social support to children and families affected by the conflict. This is especially important in the areas most affected by the conflict.