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Ukraine: Protecting children from explosive weapons with play

Emergency Explosive weapons
Ukraine

HI teams use interactive methods to raise awareness among young people of the dangers of explosive remnants of war.

Yevheniia KHORUZHA, HI risk education officer, explains safe behaviour to children through an educational story prepared by HI's Poltava teams.

Yevheniia KHORUZHA, HI risk education officer, explains safe behaviour to children through an educational story prepared by HI's Poltava teams. | © Hlib Kostenko / HI

HI regularly organizes "traditional" risk education sessions in various schools in the East of Ukraine. The aim of these sessions is to teach the youngest children to be extremely vigilant, to recognize the signs of danger and to adopt safe behavior to protect themselves and their families.

In class, children are tested on their knowledge to assess their level of understanding of these subjects at the beginning and the end of HI’s sessions.

"In general, children already have some knowledge about this topic thanks to television, their parents or the Internet, but they often have incorrect or incomplete information, so we teach them appropriate behaviour and information", explains Victoria Vdovichuk, Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) Officer at HI in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine.

But the HI teams have also developed more playful methods to interact with children, especially the youngest. For children aged between 5 and 11, the teaching medium used is fairytale. One of the stories involves a little girl who is unfortunately injured by an explosive device.

"We suggest that they give first names to the different characters in the story. They can also relate and empathise with the little girl. This process helps them to feel more involved", explains Yevhenii FEDOROV, HI's EORE agent in Poltava, eastern Ukraine.

Another awareness-raising tool is a quest. In September 2023, HI teams organised a large-scale treasure hunt in a small rural village where many families of displaced persons are staying in the Poltava region.

After a few theoretical points to introduce them to the different types of explosive devices, the types of injuries that these weapons can cause as well as the warning signs and safe behaviour to adopt, the young participants began the game on a fictitious island, called "Safety Island".

Objective: move from one point to another, accomplishing various tasks. Participants solved riddles, looked for a safe way out of the maze, made puzzles, etc. They also had to choose safe paths marked with cones, signal tapes and official warning signs during the route. Teams were also competing in packing the emergency backpack. Participants received souvenir products like shopping bags and balloons at the quest's end.

"Children are an incredible audience because they always ask us lots of questions and are very curious," concludes Alla Borysova, HI's EORE supervisor in Poltava.

Artem is 12 and lives in Poltava Oblast. He came to the quest with his father, a physics teacher, and his classmates:

"I found this quest very useful and learned that explosive devices can be hidden in ordinary objects, so they can be mistaken for something else and that can be dangerous! I need to remember that!"

A large majority of these children, who are all victims of war, have already lived in, or crossed areas contaminated by explosive devices, or had to hide during bombardments. These sessions are also an opportunity for them to share their own feelings and experiences.

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