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2007.10.22

* Children in Ukraine find protection from streetlife
* 21 Jul 2007


Living in the streets of Odessa, childhood and the fun of growing up replaced by drug addiction, violence, and a life without the fundamental right of protection.

Miroslav is seventeen. His brother died a few days ago. For nearly two years, he has shared a corner if this disused garage with Vova and Taras for a hideout. These youth are just some of the estimated 4000 homeless children and young people on the streets of Odessa.

UNICEF’s local partner is The Way Home, a non-governmental organization. Here their outreach team works quickly to provide the boys with clean water and food, and often Miroslav some basic first aid for needle wounds. Inhaling glue or inhaling a cocktail of cold and flu medicine are common ways of taking drugs among children living on the streets.

Sharing needles of engaging in unsafe sex, means street children are one of the groups most at risk of contracting HIV in Ukraine, the country worst affected by HIV/AIDS in Europe. Twenty five percent of people living with HIV in Ukraine are under the age of twenty. Violence, sexual abuse and drug addiction often leads to crime. Many homeless children in Odessa say they expect to die on the street.

Soundbite (English) Olena Sakovych, UNICEF Project Officer in Ukraine: “UNICEF is trying to provide access of street children to the basic services: like education, health, first aid, and of course counseling on HIV, to help them to stay healthy and get some basic education. Under the Convention of the right of the child, all children have the same rights, and unfortunately the street children in Ukraine are those who are the most vulnerable and their, like in the implementation of their rights.

The problem of the street children in Ukraine, came out of the break up of the Soviet Union. The transition process has left the child protection, welfare and health systems under funded and neglected. Today, high unemployment and poverty places severe constraints on families, and children often run away from home. The street children looking to change their lives, the Way Home is a step forward.

With support from UNICEF, the Way Home provides protection, welfare, legal and education services for street children. Over summer, the NGO sets up an outdoor camp by the black sea. There’s the chance to play, swim and enjoy the beach. Just as other local children do over the summer holiday. They’re also encouraged to gain a sense of personal responsibility, to help others and look after their local environment.

Life is now different for fifteen year old Lena. Street life, she says, was dangerous and violent. The protective environment at The Way Home, means she is doing well at school and wants to study law.

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