Your support is needed to protect children and adults with disabilities in Ukraine. Everyone is suffering. But babies, children, and adults with disabilities in group homes, orphanages and institutions are lost and forgotten. In this conflict, they are in grave danger of being abandoned by staff — facing starvation and death. DRI is sounding the alarm to protect the lives of people most at-risk. Even before the war, Ukraine’s extensive network of orphanages left children without the love, care, and protection of family. During previous conflicts, DRI received reports of children disappearing over porous borders, likely into the hands of human traffickers. DRI publicly warned that children in Ukraine’s war-torn areas were at risk abandonment and trafficking and in need of immediate protection. That advice is even more true today.
DRI has investigated dozens of facilities for children and adults with disabilities in Ukraine. DRI’s report, No Way Home: The Exploitation and Abuse of Children in Ukraine’s Institutions is a resource that now informs international relief efforts. DRI found no reliable oversight or accounting of some 100,000 to 200,000 children in Ukraine’s institutions. Most children in these facilities have families. But due to poverty, stigma, and the lack of community supports, many parents have no choice but to give up a child with a disability. As Ukrainians flee to safety in neighboring countries, children separated from families and adults in institutions are especially at-risk of being left behind.
DRI is taking action to protect children and adults with disabilities. Ukrainians have courageously stood up to protect themselves and their families, and they need our support. The Director of DRI’s Ukraine program made her way to safety with her family in Poland and is leading our outreach in Ukraine. Through our offices in Washington, DC and London – as well as staff in the region –DRI is:
- Monitoring dangers – Using DRI’s knowledge of Ukraine’s orphanages and institutions, we are working to identify and monitor threats to people in institutions. We are reaching out to family members, activists, institutional staff, and local authorities. We are monitoring Ukrainian press and social media for threats and opportunities to help.
- Conducting a media campaign – DRI is informing the public about threats to children and adults with disabilities in Ukraine. DRI’s work has recently been covered by The Independent, and BBC asked for help investigating orphanages.
- Reaching out to disability organizations and family members struggling to survive – Most of these groups were not receiving international funding before the war, so they are not known to international relief organizations. DRI will bring them into contact with humanitarian relief organizations.
- Advising humanitarian relief and development organizations – DRI is sharing findings from Ukraine with international relief and refugee organizations. DRI draws on volunteer experts from the United States and Eastern Europe, including disability activists and professionals, about supports needed for children and adults with disabilities who have survived trauma or face continued danger.
- Seeking US government support – DRI is working with Congress to ensure that US funding supports disability groups. We are seeking support for a program to identify, monitor, prevent abandonment, and promote family reunification of children in orphanages.
Disability Rights International (DRI) is an international human rights group dedicated to the protection and full participation of children and adults with disabilities. Founded in 1993, DRI is based in Washington, DC with offices in London, Mexico, and the Balkans. DRI has conducted human rights investigations in orphanages and institutions around the world and trained disability activists in Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Republic of Georgia, and Bulgaria and more than three-dozen other countries. Our reports and media campaigns have generated media coverage in the United States and abroad (see www.DRIadvocacy.org). Through our Worldwide Campaign to End the Institutionalization of Children, DRI advances the right of all children to live and grow up with a family – not an orphanage or institution.
DRI has received numerous awards for its record of success. The American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD) and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago recognized DRI for “pioneering the field of international human rights advocacy for people with disabilities and bringing unprecedented international awareness to their concerns.” DRI must raise funds immediately to hire staff and consultants in Ukraine and the region. We must bring the concerns of children and adults with disabilities to international attention. Their lives depend on what we do now. To support DRI’s work, DONATE HERE, on DRI’s website at www.DRIadvocacy.org, or send a check to DRI at 1825 K St. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20006. Contact us at info@DRIadvocacy.org