In 2023, UNHCR provided 3,370 laptops to help children continue their studies and stay connected, and support social and legal workers, border guards and consular workers to continue providing vital services to people across Ukraine.
Author Iryna Tymchyshyn, Viktoriia Tiutiunnyk, Marta Kocherha, UNHCR Ukraine | 12 Feb 2024
**Supporting access to education **
Since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion, education for millions of Ukrainian boys and girls has become another casualty of war. With continued shelling and direct attacks damaging schools, pre-schools and other education facilities, the simple act of attending classes in-person has become a life-threatening experience for many children.
Only half of the 3.9 million children in the territory under Ukraine’s control have attended school in person since the start of the 2023/2024 school year, according to UN estimates. The war has also caused a large-scale displacement that affects not only families with children, but also education facilities that were forced to relocate to safer areas.
To support children in Ukraine to continue their education amidst the devastating war, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, distributed 1,500 Chromebooks to the Departments of Education in the most affected areas. The laptops equipped with Ukrainian keyboards were then provided directly to schoolchildren to help them attend online classes, as many schools remain physically closed due to the ongoing hostilities and dire security situation.
“When we left our home, we could not take many of our belongings, so we left our laptop at home,” says Valentyna Velsova, mother of 9-year-old Kyrylo and 13-year-old Oleksandra.
In April 2022, the family fled their home in Dobropillia in the Donetsk region and settled in the city of Dnipro. After facing the trauma of war and displacement, Valentyna did not want to put her children through another challenge, so they decided not to change school and continue attending classes online in their previous school.
“To change schools for my children would be traumatic, so they study online with their teachers and classmates. They have been studying online for a year and a half. This is not an easy process, because the quality of knowledge directly depends on the availability of modern gadgets and internet connection. With this new Chromebook, it will be much easier, faster, and more interesting to study,” Valentyna says.
The large-scale internal displacement and the need to support millions of people forced to flee their homes have put capacities of the social services in Ukraine under strain. The Departments of Social Protection play the leading role in addressing a multitude of social needs and in providing state assistance to displaced families.
“In such a difficult time for Ukraine, making timely payments of all types of social benefits and compensations is crucial. Older devices make things much more difficult because they are slow and do not always support modern apps. The equipment must work quickly, especially now, when the main part of state social benefits is being transferred to the Unified Information System, and many recipients are migrating between districts,” explains Viktor Markov, head of the Department of Social Protection in the city of Zaporizhizhia.
His unit deals with over 35,000 displaced people in 17 communities across the Zaporizhizhia region, including those who fled areas currently occupied by the Russian Federation. With laptops and equipment provided by UNHCR and its NGO partner Stabilization Support Services, Viktor’s team is able to optimize the workload and improve the services provided to people in need.
“For those working in social protection, it is important to adhere to the “here and now” rule, which obliges us to urgently solve problems and satisfy people’s needs,” Viktor notes.
**Ensuring continuity of vital consular services **
For the over 6 million Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to flee the country, access to consular services is key to maintaining connection with their homeland and families that remained in Ukraine – or to obtain information and documents, if they decide to return.
This means an increasing workload for the dedicated department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine that helps to process various documents needed by the refugees and returnees to access services, either in their hosting countries or upon their return home.
UNHCR provided 48 laptops to help strengthen the capacity of the consular infrastructure inside Ukraine, assisting both Ukrainians in the country and abroad.
“The laptops will become an indispensable part of our preparedness to ensure the continuous coordination of consular services amid air alerts and power outages. This support allows us to offer high-quality consular services, maintaining the comfort and safety of our citizens,” said Roman Goriainov, Director of the Department General for Consular Service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
**Supporting efficient assistance at border crossings **
The situation at Ukraine’s borders, which was extremely pressured during the first weeks of the full-scale war in February 2022, when millions of people were fleeing for safety, has stabilized. However, on a weekly basis, thousands of people continue to cross in and out of Ukraine by land as the air traffic remains halted.
In Ukraine, UNHCR works closely with the State Border Guard Service to ensure protection and efficient assistance to people at the border. In 2023, 175 laptops were provided to support border guards in their work.
“The received equipment, in particular laptops, will be used by border guards at the crossing points to improve the safety and speed of border crossings by citizens,” said Serhii Lozinskyi, the head of the Volyn border detachment.
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