MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt: “We need to protect the most vulnerable victims of the conflict – children”

On the 23 September 2015 in the European Parliament in Brussels, MEPs Anna Maria Corazza Bildt and Caterina Chinnici, Co – Chairs of the Intergroup on Children’s rights, held a seminar on the plight of children in Ukraine “The invisible face of humanitarian crisis in Ukraine”.

The host of the seminal, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, Member of the European Parliament, stressed the need to raise more awareness about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and called on the EU not to forget the most vulnerable victims of the conflict – children.

DSC_8888NGOs working with children in Ukraine presented the situation on the ground. Iryna Chubaruk, Project Coordinator for children in South Easter Ukraine and co – founder of Peaceful Circle, acknowledged the tremendous work volunteers are doing in trying to help affected children, however she stressed that they have no previous experience and need a proper education and training to continue to do their work more effectively.

Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF representative in Ukraine, presented terrible statistics, consequences of the conflict for children: 68 – have been killed, 183 466 – internally displaced, 186 – wounded. Ms. Barberis stressed that many children, especially those living in the territories not controlled by the Ukrainian government, are not getting adequate help.

Halyna Postoliuk – Country Director of Hope and Homes for Children Ukraine and Opening Doors Campaign Coordinator Ukraine, presented moving stories from the ground, providing examples of violations of children’s right to medical treatment and education. Ms. Postoliuk asked for a stronger coordination between state agencies, international donors and the civil society in Ukraine. On behalf of the NGOs working with children in Ukraine, she also appealed to the EU to support and push Ukrainian government to prioritise the child protection reform.

DSC_8894Second panel included representatives of the EU institutions and the European Parliament, who gave an overview of what the EU has done or is currently doing to help the children in need in Ukraine.

Andrej Plenkovic, Chair of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, acknowledged that the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement, which sets the guidelines for the bilateral relations, has 10 economic and political priorities but does not include social matters. This has to change, said MEP. The European Parliament has a role to play in this and social issues, the Ukraine is currently struggling with, should be put on the agenda, added Mr. Plenkovic.

“The life of today’s generation in Ukraine has changed irreversibly” – Andrej Plenkovic

EEAS representative, Adriano Martins, spoke about the EU’s funded projects in Ukraine which include components of children protection. Furthermore, he stressed that negotiating a lasting peace deal is the best that the EU can do in order to address structural causes of children’s suffering in Ukraine.

Martin Taschner, Deputy Head of Unit DG ECHO, European Commission, assured the audience that Ukraine was still high on the agenda. Commenting on the recent polio outbreak (officially declared on the 1st September), he confirmed the readiness of the EU to help with the vaccination as soon as Ukrainian government develops a plan of action.

Addressing immediate needs of children in Ukraine is very important but it is not enough, said Peter Wagner, Political Deputy Head of the Support Group for Ukraine, European Commission DG NEAR. The long – term solution can only come from reforming public administration, justice system and fighting corruption. If these are not achieved, the root causes of ineffective response of Ukrainian state to the problem will remain, stressed Mr. Wagner.