Ukraine: children more often exposed to the dangers of explosive devices
A former deminer, Viktoria leads explosive ordnance education sessions in Ukraine. She explains Humanity & Inclusion's approach to protecting children, who are more exposed than adults.
In a classroom in Ukraine, a session to educate children about the dangers of explosive devices. | © R. Crews / HI
Several times a week, Humanity & Inclusion offers explosive device awareness and conflict protection sessions to children, adults and NGO staff in Ukraine in Chernivtsi, Vinnytsia, Poltava and Dnipro. A former deminer, Viktoria explains how these sessions are conducted.
Risk Education and Conflict Protection
Today we are going to a school to organize what we call risk education and conflict protection sessions.
These sessions explain the nature of explosive devices and how dangerous they are. Thanks to them, we can save lives during the conflict.
© R. Crews / HI
Before each session, we give the children tests to determine their level of understanding of the topics. Then we assess them again after the session to see if their understanding has improved and what they have learned.
Protect yourself and others
Children usually already have some knowledge about the subject from television, their parents or the Internet. However, they often have incorrect or incomplete information. So we teach them the right behaviors and information, as well as the right way to react in case of conflict.
For example, we show them where and how to get to safety in case of a bombing. Many people think that they should simply stand between two walls. But that's not quite true. You have to have two walls between you and the outside world, but if you stand, you can be hurt by an explosion. The correct behavior is to lie face down on the ground with your hands above your head.
We demonstrate these positions and then ask the children to perform an exercise to learn how to evacuate people with limited mobility. By crossing their arms with someone else, they create a "chair" strong enough to carry a person who cannot walk or move on their own.
We show them what the mines look like and then explain where they might be. In trenches or military bases, destroyed buildings, deserted fields, forests, highways... all of these places can be contaminated by mines or unexploded ordnance. We explain to them why they should not go near them and that if they see something unusual, it could be dangerous.
Safe behaviors in all situations
Instructions may vary depending on where you are during an attack. So we teach them how to react whether they are in a car, at home or on the street, how to understand if an attack is starting or how to check if the road is clear.
When people don't know these risks, they are in serious danger. In a previous job, I witnessed an unheard of scene in a village near Kiev. The entire village was littered with unexploded ordnance. Unaware of the risks involved, people started to pick them up with their bare hands. Children ran between the ammunition, only steps away from imminent danger.
Explosive devices hidden in toys
Sometimes explosive devices can be disguised or hidden in other objects. In the Donetsk region, we have spotted explosive devices hidden in toys, books or even cell phones.
Children are more at risk than adults, because they like to explore and touch everything they see, they are very curious and less suspicious. To avoid disguised ammunition, we teach them not to touch anything in unknown places. In these areas, everything should be considered dangerous. We teach this to adults as well, although they are less likely to touch strange objects. For example, when I ask children, "If you see a phone in the street, will you pick it up?" they usually say, "Yes!
Contamination for generations
Even if the war ended today, it would take more than 100 years to clear the entire country of mines. Ukraine is now one of the countries most contaminated by unexploded ordnance. This will be the case for many years to come.
It takes about two years to clear a single medium-sized contaminated field. But we have thousands of such fields in Ukraine. So you can imagine how long it will take to clean them from these devices...
I do this job because I love people and I want to protect them from danger. I have worked as a deminer and have seen many examples of how dangerous these things are. After February 24, 2022, I decided to work directly with the general public, to teach them how to live in these conditions. One wrong move by someone can be deadly for a large number of people. That's why I want to share the information with as many people as possible in Ukraine.