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Explosive ordnances threaten returning Ukrainians

Emergency Explosive weapons
Ukraine

Some persons displaced by the war in Ukraine are beginning to return home, to cities contaminated by explosive ordnances. HI will prepare communities to identify hazards and adopt safe behaviors.

A young girl rides her bike next to houses destroyed by bombing in Borodyanka, Ukraine.

A young girl rides her bike next to houses destroyed by bombing in Borodyanka, Ukraine. | © T.Mayer / HI

Explosive Ordnances threaten families

Bombing and shelling have been confirmed in cities across Ukraine, including Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Luhansk, Mariupol, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zhytomyr and Vinnytsia.

“In addition to the initial destruction, these attacks can leave areas heavily contaminated with explosive ordnances, as a varying percentage of them fail to function as intended or are deliberately deployed to kill or injure people,” says Perrine Benoist, Technical director of armed violence reduction at HI. “These explosive ordnances can remain dangerous for days, weeks, or even years.”

HI will be working in the East and West of Ukraine with displaced persons and collective centers to better prepare the population to deal with the threats posed by conflict and explosive ordnances.

Explosive Ordnance Risk Education & Safe behaviors

“As a lot of people start returning home, they will inevitably find booby traps and explosive ordnances,” explains Celine Cheng, HI Explosive Ordnance Risk Education Specialist. “We want to teach them how to recognize, react to and report these threats.”

To spot signs of booby traps, risk education teaches individuals to look for irregularities in the soil such as color changes, raised or flattened areas, and any wrappings or wires strewn about. Signs of forced entry in buildings or cars could also signal explosives inside. People are encouraged to only use high-traffic roads when traveling, instead of shortcuts or unused roads. They should never drive over unknown objects on the road, and they should not wander into areas with rubble or debris. Communities are also encouraged to remain in frequent contact with trusted neighbours, friends and family to report any devices or suspicions between them.

There has been an explosive ordnance problem in Ukraine for a long time,” Celine says. “There are remnants from the 1st and 2nd world wars, the conflict in 2014, and now there is this war. Our target population is likely to have some familiarity with explosive ordnances already. So, it is key to focus more on safety messages, highlight unsafe behaviors, and identify the new kinds of contamination in Ukraine.”

“One thing that has really struck me is that people are taking social media videos of the damage caused by explosive ordnances on their mobile phones. To get them on film, they are stepping and approaching quite closely, which is pretty dangerous behavior,” Celine explains.

“I’ve even seen videos of civilians removing mines from the road and putting them into the forest. While the intention is good, it is actually high-risk behavior that we want to discourage.”

On May 8th in the Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine, a 12-year old boy was reportedly killed after bringing home and accidentally detonating ammunition he had found in a cluster pile.

HI prepares at-risk communities

HI will implement risk education and conflict preparedness and protection initiatives in the East and West of Ukraine by:

  • Deployment of risk education teams in Chernivtsi, and Dnipro
  • Providing community-level risk education sessions in schools, community centers, etc.
  • Distributing printed education materials such as brochures, posters and pamphlets on hazard identification, safe behaviors and conflict preparation tips
  • Providing risk education trainings to humanitarian actors and community focal points, including first responders, volunteers and metro workers
  • Launching media and remote campaigns to share information digitally to isolated and insecure areas
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