Children of Peace initiative: EU provides € 800,000 to support education for children in eastern Ukraine (18/11/2015)

BRUSSELS/KYIV, 18 November 2015 – The European Union and UNICEF have started the ‘Children of Peace’ flagship project in Ukraine to provide education and psychosocial support to conflict-affected children in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.

UNICEF and partners will provide children and adolescents affected by the conflict with life skills education they need to live peacefully within host and returnee communities and with psychosocial support to strengthen their resilience. In addition, 5,000 school psychologists, teachers, social workers and volunteer community workers will be trained to identify, refer and provide immediate psychosocial support to children.  

Altogether, over 50,000 children will benefit these school- and community-based programmes, for which the EU through the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) provided €800,000. The amount is part of the overall funding of €11 million allocated this year for educational projects in conflict areas under the EU Children of Peace initiative.

Children are the most vulnerable victims of any conflict. This assistance will help them overcome the pain of displacement through professional care and enjoy a normal childhood as much as possible,” stated Mamar Merzouk, head of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) office in Kyiv.

Children affected by the horrors of conflict and displacement struggle to move on with their lives, including trauma and stress affecting family life. Psychosocial support is needed not just to those in the direct conflict-affected areas but also children further afield. This current programme will reach children and caregivers in five eastern oblasts of Ukraine.

“Access to education and provision of psychosocial support are crucial to give hope to children and adolescents in eastern Ukraine. Far too many children have experienced traumatic events caused by the armed conflict. We need to help these children now to recover and move on with their life,” said Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine.

Psychosocial support can make a significant difference in helping children to gain resilience and find normalcy. A UNICEF survey in Donetsk oblast showed that 37 per cent of those attending psychosocial programming were suffering from profound distress. Following participation in the UNICEF’s programme, the number of children still facing significant distress was reduced to 11 per cent.  This number represents those who required more specialised services.

The EU Children of Peace initiative is supporting a severely underfunded humanitarian sector: education in emergencies. Since the initiative was launched in 2012, every year it has funded humanitarian projects for children in conflict areas, providing them with access to schools where they can learn in a safe environment and receive psychosocial support to deal with traumatic experiences.

From the initial €2 million provided in 2012, the European Union has been scaling up its funding each year. To date, the European Union has allocated over €23 million for EU Children of Peace projects. Around 263 000 boys and girls in 19 countries have benefited from the initiative so far. By the end of 2015, more than 1.5 million children will have been helped in 26 countries. The aim is to increase this further and dedicate 4 per cent of the total humanitarian aid budget of the European Union, in the course of this Commission's mandate, to help with the provision of education in emergencies.

For more information, please contact:

Alexandre Polack, ECHO Brussels: +32 460 767 000, alexandre.polack@ec.europa.eu

Rebekka Opfermann, UNICEF Brussels, +32 492 93.37.43, ropfermann@unicef.org

Mamar Merzouk, ECHO office in Kyiv, +38.068.389.0804, Mamar.Merzouk@echofield.eu

Veronika Vashchenko, UNICEF Kyiv, +38 044 254 2439, vvashchenko@unicef.org

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About UNICEF:

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work in Ukraine visit: www.unicef.org.ua. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and ВКонтакте.

For more information about the EU-UNICEF partnership visit http://www.unicef.org/eu/

About European Commission Humanitarian Aid:

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) funds relief operations for victims of natural disasters and conflicts outside the European Union. Aid is provided impartially, directly to people in need, without discrimination of their race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation. For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm, Facebook and twitter.