International organizations call for assistance for children affected by landmines or explosive remnants of war in UkraineSince 2014, over 128 children have been injured by landmines, unexploded ordnance and other deadly explosive remnants of war, leaving many with disabilities. Over 38 children have been killed. Hundreds of other children are reliant on family members who have survived mine/ERW-related accidents. These are only the verified numbers, and the actual numbers are likely to be much higher.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over 200,000 children currently reside in the 20-kilometre zone along both sides of the ‘contact line’ in eastern Ukraine. This area is highly contaminated by mines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW).
The Danish Refugee Council-Danish Demining Group (DRC-DDG), in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) presented the results of the “Mine Victim Assistance Needs” assessment report.
“I have to come with my child to Kyiv every three months, but the surgery is not yet possible. I borrowed some money. I tried to find a part-time job, but I cannot do it anymore, as I am always with my son – I help him to wash, to carry things, to eat. This is how life is now. It will never end”, says the despairing mother of a 13-year-old boy injured by ERW.
“Assistance to victims is one of the essential components of Mine Action: years after the conflict is resolved and the last mines are cleared, the mine victims and their families will still require years of protection and support on their path to recovery. Most of the child victims do not have adequate access to medical and psychological care, and comprehensive rehabilitation. This is particularly pressing for families in rural areas,” said Krista Zongolowicz, DRC-DDG Ukraine’s Country Director.
"Mines and explosive remnants of war are threatening children's safety and leading to injuries, maiming and emotional distress. Maimed children are exposed to higher risks of violence and stigma. Their families often lack the means or ability to provide children with the assistive devices they need, and face difficulties accessing basic services including health, education and social protection. We are committed to helping children affected by mines and explosive remnants of war in eastern Ukraine to recover and resume their childhoods," said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine.
DRC-DDG and UNICEF, in collaboration with the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights in Ukraine, have developed recommendations to improve assistance to the families of child mine victims. In particular, it was recommended to work towards involving international expertise to provide children with high-quality functional prostheses, continued medical care, psychosocial assistance, accessible inclusive services, adequate laws and policies. The recommendations elaborated will be submitted for consideration by the Cabinet of the Ministers of Ukraine that mine victims are fully included in national social policies.
The organizations also urged the international community to engage and provide financial support for mine victims in Ukraine.