Disability Rights International (DRI) has recently released a report called “No Way Home: The Exploitation and Abuse of Children in Ukraine’s Orphanages”* In it, they report on abusive conditions in institutions for children based on interviews and site visits from 2012 to 2015 in 33 locations. Estimated there are 82,000 children in institutions in the Ukraine, although advocacy groups in the country as well as NGO’s estimate closer to 200,000. (p. iv)
As is common in many countries, the lack of financial support and community services leaves many families little choice but to send their child with disabilities to an institution.
In their report, DRI tells of witnessing a woman at an institution, grasping her daughter and sobbing. She stated she had to give her up under the advice of her doctor. She is a single mom and could not work and care for her. She wanted to keep her home, but the lack of community services such as daycare prohibited her from being able to do so. (pg. 6)
Inadequate or non-existent oversight and monitoring of the institutions by governing authorities, as well as denial of legal personhood status to those with disabilities (which is very common) leaves the door wide open for terrible human rights violations including torture, ill-treatment, human and organ trafficking. (pg. 9)
“Children with disabilities are especially at risk – often relegated to the most barren and filthy sections of institutions, left without activities, stimulation or human contact. Many children are left in physical restraints or kept in beds and cribs where their arms and legs atrophy from disuse. Separated from society and without the protection of family and friends, children are subject to beatings, rape, and other forms of routine violence. In almost every institution we visited, DRI investigators observed children subject to forced labor. Without adequate government oversight, children detained in institutions are at-risk of sexual abuse, trafficking for sex, pornography, or sale of bodily organs.” (pg. iv)
As of 2014, illegal organ trade is on the rise in the Ukraine with children with disabilities those at highest risk. (pg. 33)
The condition is especially dire now in Ukraine due to war, political unrest and economic crisis.
Ironically, foreign aid from governments, faith-based groups, non-profit and aid agencies are often making the situation worse by donating funds to institutions instead of to programs which support families and communities so children can be kept at home. (pg. xi)
Visits on site gave proof of international money as evidenced by extensive renovations and/or additions to institutions. Although there are physical improvements, rehabilitation and opportunities and programs for re-integration into society remain virtually non existent for children with disabilities. (p. 38) These buildings may house them, they may undergo renovations, but the children inside do not benefit. The children inside languish.