"Our future seemed hopeless"
Supporting young mothers in conflict-affected Eastern Ukraine
“There are no jobs in the village where I used to work, the farms are closed now. We don’t have enough money to meet even the most basic needs for our family.
“I even had to dismantle the wooden toilet we had so that my children would not freeze this winter.”
Rosa* is one of countless young mothers in war-ravaged Ukraine struggling to make ends meet
Living in a small village with no water supply, Rosa relies almost entirely on cash assistance to support her three children.
Struggling to meet even the most basic needs, Rosa recalls worrying about her children falling behind on important developmental milestones. “My youngest daughter is one, and she still doesn’t speak. She does not stand or even crawl.”
According to Rosa, her three-year-old daughter also used to struggle with basic social and physical skills. Her oldest daughter, at seven years old, attends boarding school, but has difficulties keeping up with the other children. “She is not performing well, she has very low confidence and self-esteem.”
As the conflict in Eastern Ukraine continues, many have fled the buffer zone to face an uncertain future, while others have stayed behind and struggle with every day needs. Limited access to basic life-saving services, depleted livelihoods and exhausted coping strategies continue destroying social and family fabrics of the local communities.
International Medical Corps, with funding from OFDA, has been working to help mothers like Rosa through mobile protection teams, psychosocial support activities and child protection assistance in 17 vulnerable communities residing in Donetsk region.
As part of this project, International Medical Corps has been organising a ‘Young Mother’s Club’, where mothers can learn more about early childhood development activities for their children, as well as get help with supporting the basic needs for themselves and their families.
Rosa says she joined the ‘Young Mother’s Club’ hoping to improve her relationship with her daughters and to learn about vital hygiene practices.
“Before the programme I struggled with my children a lot. I shouted at them, or I did not pay enough attention to them, I didn’t know how to keep them healthy, both physically and mentally.
“I felt anxious and confused all the time. Our future seemed hopeless.
“Through this club, I learned how to improve my family’s health and hygiene situation with limited resources, how to engage my children in activities that can support their social, emotional and physical growth, and how to plan for the future.”
In addition, through the activities at the club young mothers have been given the opportunity to come together and support each other, creating a resilient community long after the project is finished. Rosa regularly attends gatherings with other mothers who have benefited from the clubs and she says that the impact on her own life and that of her community is clear.
“I feel like I have learned to hear and understand my children, to have a constructive dialogue with them, to resolve conflicts, to be close.