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Ukraine: Communities in contaminated areas face severe risks from explosive ordnance

Ukraine has experienced substantial new contamination with explosive ordnance due to the escalation of the conflict in February 2022. Risk education plays a pivotal role in protecting communities from the perils of mines and other explosive remnants of war during times of conflict when clearance is not immediately feasible.

©ShoTam Ukraine, 2024.

Posted on 03 Apr 2024

As one approaches the Polissia hromada (meaning community in Ukrainian) in Kyiv Oblast, the increasing prevalence of signs warning "Danger Mine!" becomes evident. This oblast, like numerous others across Ukraine, is extensively contaminated with explosive ordnance (EO). The National Mine Action Authority of Ukraine reported in June 2023 that approximately 160,000km² of territory requires surveying for contamination. 

Polissia hromada governs 29 villages, one of which, Luhovyky, is situated merely 20 kilometres from the Ukrainian-Belarusian border.  

Vitalii Novik, the deputy head of the community, says that it returned to the control of the Ukrainian government in April 2022. He reports that explosive remnants of war were discovered in residences and gardens.  

"We had lethal incidents. On the first day following the occupation, a vehicle detonated in the village of Dragivka, resulting in two fatalities, with one survivor. Additionally, a lorry exploded in Vovchkiv, claiming two lives. There were also detonations involving other vehicles. A combine harvester exploded in a field, fortunately without casualties," Vitalii recounts. 

He emphasises that the threat persists, given the extensive contamination of the community with EO.


"All forest areas have not yet been surveyed, alongside some unexplored plots of land intended for farming. The State Emergency Service has addressed all submitted applications as far as possible. Farmers have also employed deminers at their own expense to inspect the areas and expedite the commencement of the sowing season."

/  Vitalii Novik

Education starts with high-priority risk groups 

In regions where immediate demining is unattainable, providing explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) is crucial. This involves activities aimed at reducing the risk of injury from EO by enhancing the awareness of women, girls, boys, and men following their distinct vulnerabilities, roles, and needs, and advocating behavioural change.  

Through targeted outreach and education programmes, EORE enables locals to identify, avoid, and report the presence of EO. This proactive strategy focuses on distributing vital information tailored to the specific requirements and circumstances of affected populations. The endeavours of EORE play a significant part in diminishing the likelihood of accidents and injuries associated with EO, thus safeguarding lives and assisting communities in managing their daily activities amidst ongoing threats.  

DRC conducts both online and offline information sessions throughout Ukraine. In 2023, nearly 4,000 sessions were held, reaching 70,000 individuals.  

Information initiatives typically commence in communities with high-priority risk groups. These include officials and workers of public utilities operating in hazardous zones and repairing equipment damaged by bombardment. Presently, some of the most perilous areas are forests in communities that have been outside the control of the government of Ukraine for a period, as well as locations where hostilities have occurred.  

Nevertheless, the teams endeavour to engage as many individuals as possible in communities affected by explosive ordnance contamination, hence the specialists conduct sessions in various venues, including schools, cultural centres, post offices, markets, and shops. A recent session took place at the Polissia Central Hospital thanks to the funding from the German Federal Foreign Office.  

"We convey the existing threats without delving into the tactical and technical specifics of the munitions. We also discuss the impact of mines and explosive remnants of war. Most importantly, we elucidate how to recognise dangerous zones and the appropriate actions if one encounters munition, finds themselves in a mined area, or witnesses a casualty," explains Oleksandr Nezdoimyshev, EORE Facilitator at the DRC. 

Doctors from the Polissia Central Hospital in Krasiatychi, Kyiv Oblast, listen to a lecture on the risks of explosive ordnance. ©ShoTam Ukraine, 2024.

Doctors from the Polissia Central Hospital in Krasiatychi, Kyiv Oblast, listen to a lecture on the risks of explosive ordnance. ©ShoTam Ukraine, 2024.

“I discovered ammunition in my son’s drawer and was overcome with dread”

Immediately following the session, participant Liudmyla highlighted the extreme necessity of such awareness-raising efforts—especially for children who, out of curiosity, may jeopardise their lives unaware of the danger.

"My son, aged 12, had been cautioned against venturing into abandoned military dugouts, yet he and his friend did precisely that. One day, upon opening his drawer, I discovered ammunition and was overcome with dread," Liudmyla shares. She adds that the forests surrounding their village still contain abundant ammunition, with foresters continuing to discover tripwires.

"I yearn for fewer instances like the one we saw in the video when the mine detonated. To prevent children and adults from sustaining injuries," Liudmyla expresses.

DRC regularly conducts sessions for children using gamification to make them more approachable and interesting. This approach includes a mobile application with augmented reality, colouring books, and presentations in the form of fairytales.

In addition to direct awareness sessions, DRC also trains trainers, resulting in 340 specialists last year capable of imparting knowledge to individuals within their communities.

DRC also orchestrates information campaigns, disseminating key messages through the media: if you encounter a mine or other munition, refrain from approaching or touching it, and dial 101 (the SES telephone number).

Owing to financial support from the European Union, the Humanitarian Fund for Ukraine, and the governments of Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands, such campaigns are expected to reinforce the "golden rules" of safe conduct among 2 million Ukrainians in 2024.

European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
German Federal Foreign Office
German Federal Foreign Office
Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Ukraine Humanitarian Fund
Ukraine Humanitarian Fund

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