When mine accidents change the course of lifeTwo years ago, Taras lost three fingers on his right hand due to a mine incident. I eastern Ukraine, 7% of all mine victims are children.
Taras, 17, years old, lives with his parents on their farm. He takes care of his many animals. One of them is a lamb which Taras has been feeding from a bottle since it was left by its mother.
At first glance, he is a happy energetic young boy, but a closer look at his right hand reveals relic of an accident he has had in the past. The kind of accident that occurs in the zone of an armed conflict.
Two years ago, he hang out with his friends at an abandoned factory building looking for scrap metal. The building had previously been used by the military. His older friend found a cylindrical object and gave it to Taras who in turn hit it against the wall causing the object to explode in his hand.
The two boys were taken to the hospital where the doctors had to amputate three fingers on Taras’s right hand.
In eastern Ukraine where the conflict is continuing in its sixth year, mines and other explosive remnants of war have become a great threat to the lives and safety of the civilians.
7% of all mine victims are children. Since June 2014, 123 child casualties have been recorded – 29 killed and 94 injured. Most of them were in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and a majority of the casualties were boys 0-17 years old.
Love for animals
Taras is in the 11th grade and, he will finish school this year. Continuing to study was a big challenge for him because he could no longer use his dominant hand for writing. He had always dreamed of becoming a chef. Nowadays he has given up that dream because educational institution would not admit him due to his acquired disability.
Seeing their son’s love for animals, his parents gave him a piece of the farm so he could develop in this sphere. Today he is raising pigs, a calf, rabbits and the baby lamb.
Help to continue studying
DRC assisted Taras in acquiring a laptop as a part of the Mine Victim Assistance programme so that he could continue studying despite his limited abilities to use his right hand.
Thanks to the gracious support by UNICEF and the German Government, DRC case workers found online courses for him to keep on learning Ukrainian, mathematics and English and found options for him to continue education. Taras decided eventually not to apply to the college or university this year but raise his animals and work on the farm.
Taras did not receive the status of a victim of the conflict as he received the injury far away from the actual conflict zone, even though the expert commission concluded he should be entitled to such a status. For the time being, he is only entitled to receive disability payments. His family consults with lawyers trying to appeal that decision.
Taras is not his real name. The name is changed to protect the identity.