The escalation of hostilities in Ukraine has worsened the humanitarian crisis and resulted in numerous violations of human rights. Millions of children are displaced within Ukraine and millions are displaced in neighbouring countries. Displaced children are at great risk of trafficking, violence, exploitation, and abuse, with unaccompanied children, especially girls being the most vulnerable. In addition, there is an exposure to trauma and mental health issues, including stress and anxiety. The large numbers of refugees will put pressure on the health and mental health and psycho-social support services (MHPSS) in neighbouring countries.
Child helplines play a crucial role in the national and regional child protection system. Child helplines are a key mechanism to protect children from violence, and to provide accessible mental health and psychosocial support services, referrals, guidance and accurate information. Child helplines are an essential service during a crisis, as the remote and flexible nature of their services enable them to operate when other services cannot. They have strong and diverse referral networks and resource directories and, if effectively resourced, they can also quickly scale up their operations. Child helplines can also, if properly resourced, provide services in multiple languages, either through increased human resources, or through use of different technologies and re-routing of contacts. This is highly relevant in a refugee crisis.
Child Helpline International’s strategy, in partnership with the UNICEF European and Central Asian Regional Office, is to focus on the needs of our member in Ukraine and the needs of child helplines in the surrounding countries (Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova), many of whom are using the incredible resource of the harmonised 116 111 number. By increasing awareness of these child helplines, we hope to increase access to their services for the children and young people affected by the war in Ukraine. We also aim to strengthen and sustain the capacity of child helplines to provide excellent services to children and young people in need of care and protection. Finally, we want to ensure that children’s voices are heard and that their voices are amplified.
Child Helpline International is committed to supporting the world’s children. During these difficult times, children have also called upon our member child helplines all around the world to voice their concerns, fears and empathy for all those with connections to Ukraine. As they try to grasp the adult situation unfolding around them, they are asking how the war will affect them, what they can do, what is to come in the future.
We hope that the information in our resource hub will be relevant for child helplines and can help to address the questions child helpline counsellors are receiving from callers.