Kyiv, April 4, 2016. Children constitute a significant part of the 3,7 million persons who got affected by combat actions in eastern Ukraine. Mines and other unexploded ordnance items are one of the main dangers for them. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) researched the efforts that state actors, international organizations and volunteers are undertaking to raise awareness of children on this matter. The organization researched the level of awareness and handling behavior with explosive remnants among the families, who reside in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, said Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
According to the research 26 percent of all respondents and 13 percent of children have come across mines and other unexploded ordnance in the places that are supposed to be safe: on the roads, in the fields, on playgrounds and streets. “According to the research one girl in six and one boy in ten aged 6-11 would either choose to act wrongly or simply do not know what to do,” noted Barberis. She said 24 percent of children would simply run away, while 18 percent would not know how to behave themselves. At the same time 24 percent are not aware what the warning signs for explosives look like.
Giovanna Barberis noted that UNICEF’s campaign designed and launched to inform the people on the handling rules for explosive remnants covered 500 thousand children as well as their parents or guardians. A total of 578 teachers were trained to train the children how to behave if they come across a mine. Barberis said that UNICEF plans to launch a new campaign that will target various age groups and will include cartoons for children and web sites for teenagers.
According to the First Deputy Head of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine Oleh Melchutsky, 500 staff within the service are involved in de-mining activities. They visit 25 sites and neutralize 150 explosive items daily. Fifty thousand explosive items were neutralized in 2015. “Most dangerous explosives are the ones disguised in household items and children’s toys. They are a threat to civilians. Our experts neutralized 760 items over the time of the conflict,” said Melchutsky.
Pavlo Khobzey, Deputy Minister for Education and Science of Ukraine said that the Ministry is engaging volunteers as the information presented by them is better perceived by the children. Teachers and psychologists are also trained so that they are able to train the children.
Participants of the press briefing stated that there is no access to the uncontrolled territory, thus the situation with the awareness level of locals there is unknown.