Home Emergencies: preparadness and reponse Injury prevention Child protection HIV and AIDS Malaria Hygiene Coughs, colds and more serious illnesses Diarrhoea Immunization Nutrition and growth Breastfeeding Child development and early learning Safe motherhood and newborn health Timing births
Facts for Life

Emergencies: preparedness and reponse

Supporting Information


Landmines and unexploded devices are extremely dangerous. They can explode and kill or disable many people if touched, stepped on or disturbed in any way. Children and their families should stay only in areas that have been declared safe and avoid unknown objects.

Landmines are victim-activated explosive devices intended to kill or injure people or destroy or damage vehicles. Unexploded ordnance (called UXO) are any munitions, such as bombs, shells, mortars or grenades, that were used but failed to detonate as intended.

Both landmines and UXO come in many different shapes, sizes and colours. They can be buried underground, placed above ground or hidden in grass, trees or water. They may be bright and shiny or dirty and rusty, but they are always dangerous and must be avoided at all times.

Landmines are usually not visible. Special caution is needed near areas of military action or abandoned or overgrown areas. Dangerous areas are often designated by a marking such as a picture of a skull and crossbones, redpainted stones or other common markings that draw attention and are easily recognized as hazard warnings by the local population.

UXO are often easier to see than landmines. Their colour and shape make them attractive to children, but they are extremely dangerous and unstable. They can explode with the slightest touch or change in temperature. They kill more often than do landmines.

Children should be taught not to touch unfamiliar objects. They need to learn that if anything looks suspicious they should keep away and inform adults they know or the authorities.

Since some roads may be mined or littered with explosive remnants of war, it is important for families to ask local people which roads or paths are safe to travel. Generally it is safer to travel on commonly used roads and paths.

Places likely to have mines, UXO or abandoned weapons and ammunition include abandoned or destroyed buildings, unused paths or roads, untouched and overgrown fields, current or former military bases, outposts, checkpoints, trenches or ditches. Children and their families need to be informed to stay away from these areas. Measures should be put in place to keep them away.

Children and their families need to learn what to do if they see a mine or UXO. They should:

  • stand still and tell others nearby to do the same
  • avoid panicking
  • avoid movement
  • call for help
  • if help does not come, carefully consider the options before moving to retrace the original steps backwards very slowly.

If a landmine or UXO injury occurs:

  • apply firm pressure to the bleeding area until the bleeding stops
  • if the bleeding is not stopping, tie a cloth or piece of clothing (a tourniquet) just above or as close to the wound as possible and send for medical assistance
  • if help is delayed more than one hour, loosen the tourniquet hourly to check the bleeding; remove the tourniquet when the bleeding stops
  • if the person is breathing but unconscious, roll the person onto his or her side so the tongue does not block breathing
  • seek follow-up medical care, as needed.

Governments and local authorities have the responsibility to make communities safe for all children and families. Professional demining is the best solution to ensure the safety of all.