Comic books about Patron the Dog and virtual reality help children master mine safety rules in Ukraine

09 April 2024
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UNICEF

KYIV, 9 April 2024 — On 4 April, in recognition of International Mine Awareness Day, over 3,000 children in 80 cities and villages in mine-contaminated areas of Ukraine took part in a mass reading of the new comic book ‘Patron the Dog and His Adventures’ and undertook a virtual reality (VR) journey to mined areas to learn mine safety rules.

“Mine safety has become crucial knowledge for Ukrainian children, as the war has made Ukraine one of the most mine-contaminated countries worldwide,” says Munir Mammadzade, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative to Ukraine. “Our research shows that children are often aware of risks but may not practice safe behaviour. This is linked to various factors, from individual behaviour to institutional and legal levels. For example, adults may exhibit unsafe behaviour or disregard rules, and children may imitate them. This is why parents and caregivers must adhere to rules, while schools and extracurricular activities teach and practice rules of safe behaviour.”

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UNICEF

According to statistics from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU), approximately 25 per cent of Ukraine’s territory is affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW).  The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has confirmed that mines and other explosive devices have caused 124 child casualties over the last two years of war, killing 25 children and injuring 99 others, with numbers increasing every year.

To mark Mine Awareness Day, children aged 4 to 12 read life-saving tips featured in ‘Patron the Dog and His Adventures’, a new comic book series about renowned Ukrainian bomb-sniffing dog and UNICEF Ukraine official AmbassaDog Patron. The five-part series was developed as part of UNICEF Ukraine’s edutainment approach and in collaboration with the SESU and Patron’s guardians, who work as deminers and educators for SESU. In his first adventure, Patron promotes mine safe behavior and mental health practices among children. The next four issues are scheduled for release in April and May to complete the series. 

 

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UNICEF

On the same day, children aged over 13 embarked on an interactive, educational VR journey through the mine-contaminated Donetsk region, completing quests and tasks along the way. It features real videos of the region, shot by renowned Ukrainian videographer Yevhen Maloletka, who is among the creators of Oscar-winning documentary ‘20 days in Mariupol’. On their 20-minute journey, the children observed real landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), as well as the different locations where they can be hidden. This enabled them to learn life-saving rules in a safe, entertaining and interactive way. The VR experience was developed by UNICEF, in cooperation with the IT Association of Ukraine, and was recently updated by EPAM IT company volunteers. MacPaw provided the Oculus II VR glasses.

Since 2014, UNICEF has been working to reduce the risk of children being injured or killed by landmines or UXO by teaching them and their families critical mine safety rules. Throughout 2023, over 1 million children and 340,000 caregivers participated in explosive ordnance risk education sessions and activities supported by UNICEF Ukraine. 

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UNICEF's materials on safe behaviour for children of different ages and guides to mine safety lessons for teachers and emergency workers are available to download at https://bezpeka.info/, a site launched by UNICEF jointly with MES, SESU and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine earlier this year.

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The United Nations General Assembly declared 4 April of each year to be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. It is aimed at raising awareness about mines and ERW and facilitating their eradication. Mine Awareness Day is observed to foster the development of national mine-action capacities in the countries where mines and ERW constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population.

Media contacts

Damian Rance
Chief Advocacy and Communications
UNICEF Ukraine

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org  

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