Winter brings more troubles for children in eastern Ukraine

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Written By NewtonPatterson

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Masha, nine years old, is busy picking up fallen branches from her yard in an eastern Ukrainian city. She shakes the snow out of the wood. When her large plastic bag has been filled, she wipes off her frozen hands.

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She proudly states, “This is enough for the stove to burn for approximately an hour.” It will be possible to heat water and wash or cook food.

Masha lives in a small village with her family, just a few kilometers from the “contact line”. Here, conflict has been raging for almost eight years. She is constantly under threat from shelling, landmines and a lack heat and water.

This youngster is part of a whole generation that grew up hearing gunfire and who are now being shaped and displaced by violence.

Contact line frozen

Masha lives with her mother, four siblings, and a brother in an apartment in a partially demolished high-rise on the outskirts town. The walls are covered in plywood and shrapnel can be seen embedded in them. Some of them have been completely shattered.

Masha’s mother Natalia, 45, is worried about her children every single day.

Natalia says, “We live on top.” “Our house has been hit with several shellings. Our neighbour was even wounded by shelling just a few days ago, right before the New Year.

Eight years have passed since residents had gas and heating supplies. Natalia installed a small stove in her kitchen and pointed the flue out the window. The family can cook, boil water, or just take turns keeping warm.

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Masha is happy to have the stove on today. Masha doesn’t even take off her winter jacket and heats her hands after she has collected firewood.

She says, “It sometimes happens that the stove doesn’t want to burn because it has damp firewood.” Then, we need to heat the stove with a small boiler.

Natalia fears that her life will get worse if there is more shelling, and that the family may have to retreat into the basement.

Natalia recalls that in 2015, they were always hiding in the basement. “We were filthy, frozen, couldn’t take a shower, there wasn’t water or electricity, and we were also dirty.

Masha remembers her family’s cooking on a wood fire. She has dreaded winter since then because she is too cold to gather firewood for the stove.

She says that she wants to make friends and wishes her house was warm with heating so it doesn’t have to be lit by the stove.

Future-oriented learning

Each year, families and futures are affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Their lives were made more difficult by the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

School is where children who live near the “contact line” should feel safe and have a sense of normalcy. Many people feel more stressed and anxious because of remote learning and lockdown closures.

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Masha doesn’t own a smartphone. Masha was unable to access the internet during lockdown because she couldn’t afford two.

She explains, “I need to have a phone so I can do the assignment my teacher sends me.” “And, if i had a phone, i could call my friends and, for example, invite them at my birthday party.”

Masha believes that studying is more important than ever, even in times of conflict or pandemics.

She says, “When I’m older, I want to find a job which would pay me money.” “I would help those in need.”

WE at the ground

Nearly eight years of conflict have left Ukraine’s eastern Ukraine with 3.4 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid. This includes more than half a million children. Tens of thousands have been killed or injured in fighting that has forced hundreds of families from their homes.

WE works hard to provide life-saving assistance to those most in need. We offer education on mine risks, assist in the repair of schools and kindergartens damaged, and provide safe drinking water to more than 2.3million people. Over 200,000 children and their caregivers receive psychosocial support.

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It is important to ensure that children have the basics of life covered and that there are enough people to help them. We need your help.

WE has requested emergency funding in the amount of US$15.1 million to help with the humanitarian needs of the 780,000 victims and the 120,000 children affected by the conflict in Ukraine. The funding will be used to protect their safety, education, health and sanitation, as well as emergency cash transfers.