As I was writing this story, two days ago, shelling hit the city of Kramatorsk, Ukraine, killing more civilians and injuring five children.
Just last week I had visited this city to distribute UNICEF humanitarian aid to evacuated families and children.Thinking of them, I can hardly imagine the despair of these people who managed to escape shelling in their own cities and moved to Kramatorsk in search of safety for their children.
Now they are facing the danger again.
“There was a war, we could not live there. After two days of heavy shelling in my home city, I decided to take my children and leave Makeevka. I heard from my neighbours that one woman was hiding with a child in a shelter and became psychologically disturbed I was really afraid of facing the same situation,” said Lena*, a mother of two children, one aged 4 years and the other, 16 months.
I met Lena and her children in Kramatorsk last week. They left their hometown last summer and have been living in Kramatorsk since then. On the day I met them, they were queuing with other families to receive the child hygiene kits which UNICEF is providing to internally displaced families at a centre managed by a partner NGO.
It was -5 degrees Celsius outside that day, but luckily Lena and the children were properly dressed in winter clothes provided by members of the community. When they left their home, Lena and her children were wearing summer clothes and carrying one handbag. They had no specific destination in mind – Lena did not have any contacts outside her home city. She caught a ride from a car which happened to be going to Kramatorsk.
Lena is currently renting a small apartment whose owner was really cautious about giving it to a mother with two small children. For mothers like her, UNICEF children`s hygiene kits with diapers, napkins, zinc ointment are critical.
“Diapers – are so basic, but important for us! I need to put them on my son all the time, if we the damage the beds and carpets the landlord will throw us out.”
“The prices for diapers have increased enormously. Now one package costs up to 400 hryvnas, and my monthly budget for family is 700 hryvnas. Can you imagine how much food I can buy for the children for this saved 400 hryvnas? Milk, eggs, meat. Saving money on children`s food is the last resort,” she tells me.
On that day last week, together with volunteers, we distributed 104 family kits and 50 children`s kits procured by UNICEF. These will help more than 500 families with children living in Kramatorsk.
But the demand is huge and it is growing every day. Families lack basics – water, soap, towels, and diapers. And above all they need peace.
Yulia Yurova is a Partnerships Officer at UNICEF Ukraine.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.