Mine safety sessions help Ukrainian children stay safe
At Spilno Child Spots across Ukraine, children are taking part in mine safety lessons
After over a year of devastating war, Ukraine is now one of the most mined countries in the world. According to the United Nations, more than 1.8 million Ukrainian children and adults live surrounded by mines. Even in the western city of Lviv, children do not feel safe.
"Missiles and projectiles keep arriving here,” says 12-year-old Andrii. “There may be saboteurs who will leave mined toys."
Now, thanks to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners, children like Andrii are learning about mine safety.
“I would want to dig it up and play”
Many have gathered at the Spilno Child Spot in Lviv.
"Keep away!” they chant, in chorus. “Warn those nearby about the danger! Call 101!"
They repeat this, until the lesson is interrupted by the sound of air raid sirens. Quickly, everyone files down to the shelter.
"Mine safety is always relevant and everywhere. We have just not paid attention to it before. But since the beginning of the full-scale war, the situation has changed. It is important that both adults and the youngest children in kindergarten understand what these objects can look like”
Sofia teaches the children about different types of explosive objects, the places where they can be found, and the fact that sometimes they can be disguised as ordinary things.
Andrii is confident that after this lesson he will not approach or touch suspicious objects.
"For example, if I was walking in a park in Lviv and found a ball, then, like any other boy, I would want to dig it up and play. But it can be meant specifically to take a person's life.”
“The problem is with us for life”
Sofia feels that the children's attitude to mine safety is changing, as their awareness increases.
"I especially feel how keen this topic is in classes where there are displaced children who had to pass roadblocks and cross mined territories,” she says. “Now the situation in the country is such that even the smallest children know what color the ‘mine’ sign is."
Even the youngest children here also now know that mines can be hidden anywhere and that they can be detonated by a mobile phone signal.
As part of the ‘Cooperation for the sake of children’ project, implemented with the support of UNICEF, mentors in Lviv have conducted hundreds of mine safety classes. Since August 2022, more than 3,000 children have attended these lessons. They take place almost every day at Spilno Child Spots and are available to everyone.
According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES), around 30 per cent of the territory of Ukraine could potentially be mined as a result of hostilities today. Therefore, the project mentors consider it crucial to teach safety rules.
"This problem is with us for life,” says Sofia, as she hands out mine safety brochures from UNICEF to the children. “We may not be able to fully protect children from the danger of mines, but we can warn them and teach them to be careful.”
At the website bezpeka.info, developed by UNICEF together with rescuers of the State Emergency Service, teachers and parents can find useful materials, cartoons and games on the topic of mine safety for children and teenagers.