Trauma support and conflict-relevant safeguarding for Ukraine children and families

Viva is using its Children in Emergencies expertise to respond to the needs of children and families who have been displaced and traumatised by the conflict in Ukraine.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started two months ago, over two-thirds of children in Ukraine have been uprooted from their homes, and face significant risks whether in conflict zones, on the move, or across borders in a new country.

We are partnering with Innovista, a Christian leadership development charity, to build the capacity of local churches in Ukraine and Moldova as they respond to the trauma faced by children and adults.

We are equipping churches with conflict-relevant safeguarding knowledge and also adapting our Phone Mentoring programme to be used within a wartime setting, in partnership with both Innovista and another Christian charity, World Without Orphans.

These revised materials will be piloted with parents and children in Ukraine, Moldova and Poland, and are being developed for use in face-to-face and group settings, as well as over the phone.

Viva’s mentoring programme is based on evidence-based ‘Parenting Tips’ developed by Parenting for Lifelong Health in partnership with the World Health Organisation, Oxford University, Unicef and others.

The tips have been updated specifically for the Ukraine conflict, to create ‘wartime parenting tips’, updating the advice to meet the specific situation of parents and children affected by the Ukraine conflict.

It is designed to be simple to pick up and use and can be delivered over six weeks through a simple, weekly phone call or in-person meeting with a parent and a child in the same family or household. Each conversation or call explores a few key messages and encourages the family to take practical actions each week to put these into practice.

The mentoring sessions come with a real-time monitoring and evaluation system, which enables measurement of change and impact on key indicators around protection and wellbeing, as well as giving an understanding of families’ current situations.

During a conflict or disaster, children become exposed to additional protection risks, including physical dangers, separation from family, and increased risk of abuse. Children also face risks to their mental health and can experience psychosocial distress when they are living in danger, separated from family, or find themselves suddenly in a new place.

In these situations, the local church is often one of the first to act, providing for people’s basic needs, giving food, water, shelter and medicines. However, these volunteers can often be unaware of the protection issues that children face, and how they can support people who have been through traumatic experiences.

Having built up expertise in the area of Children in Emergencies in countries such as the Philippines and Lebanon/Syria over recent years, Viva is well-placed to provide training about safeguarding and psychosocial care for children, and holistic support for parents and caregivers at times of crisis.

As a response to the Covid pandemic, Viva developed its original Phone Mentoring programme, and this has now reached nearly 14,000 families in 28 countries, impacting 46,000 children.

Please do continue to pray:

  • for the safety of children and families in the Ukraine conflict
  • for the churches who are on the frontlines working to keep children safe.
  • for Kezia M’Clelland, our Children in Emergencies Specialist, as she connects with those responding to the conflict, and develops tools and resources to equip their response.