Ukraine: Protecting Children from Explosive Remnants of War


Between October 2015 and February 2016, Handicap International, with UNICEF's support, led a vast awareness-raising campaign in Ukrainian schools on the risks of landmines and explosive remnants of war near the front line of the conflict in Ukraine. More than 5,600 children between ages 6 and 18 benefited from the program.

Handicap International intervened in three districts bordering the "line of contact," which are regularly under fire as a result of fighting. The aim: to inform children and teenagers about the dangers of mines and explosive remnants and to teach them what action they need to take to stay safe. 

"Bombing raids on towns and villages leave behind bombs that have not exploded on impact, and they are often within easy reach of children,” says María Angélica Jaramillo, head of Handicap International’s the risk education project. “There are no warning signs marking mine fields, especially when they are close to check-points."

Despite the ceasefire signed by the parties to the conflict in February 2015, violence has continued. Bombing and shellfire are almost daily events.

Power and gas cuts force many adults to search for wood for fuel in the countryside, which exposes them to risks from explosive ordnance. The trade in scrap metal has taken off since the start of the conflict, endangering those who collect explosive remnants in order to sell the metal.

However, it is children who are most at risk from danger: "To a child of eight, a mine or a bomb that has not exploded looks like a toy,” says Jaramillio. “When they see one, they want to grab it straight away. They have no idea of the danger.”

Four group leaders from Handicap International went into classes in more than forty schools in the Mariinka district and the towns of Dzerzhinsk and Avdiivka, to teach children about the risks posed by explosives, how to identify dangerous weapons, and what to do when they find one.  

With the youngest children, the group leaders use play, for example drawing activities, to make sure that the sessions are fun, and the messages sink in without scaring the children. 

Twelve teachers have also been trained so that they can lead sessions themselves, as have the members of the two local associations who took over the work from Handicap International in February.