Several times a week, Humanity & Inclusion provides Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) sessions and Conflict Preparedness and Protection (CPP) sessions to children, adults and nonprofit staff in Chernivtsi, Vinnytsia, Poltava and Dnipro, Ukraine. EORE Agent Victoria explains HI’s approach to protecting children from dangerous remnants of war.
“Today we are going to a school, to have what we call 'EORE' and 'CPP' sessions. These are sessions about explosives, and dangerous objects, to save lives during military conflict.
“Before each session, we give the children tests to see their current level of understanding of these topics. Then, we retest them after the session to see if their understanding has improved, and what they learned. Usually, children already know something about this topic from television or their parents or the internet, but they often have incorrect or incomplete information, so we teach them the correct behaviors and information, as well as how to prepare during conflict.
“For example, we show them the safest positions to take during conflict. Directions can vary depending on where you are during an attack. So, we show them what to do if you are in a car, what to do if you’re at home, if you’re on the street, and how to understand if an attack is beginning if the coast is clear. Many people think that they should simply stand between two walls. But this is not fully correct. You should indeed have two walls between you and the exterior, but if you stay standing then you may be injured by a blast. The correct behavior is to lie down face-first on the ground with your hands over your head. We demonstrate these positions.
“We also have the children do an exercise to learn to evacuate people with limited mobility. They create a 'chair' by crossing their arms with another person, and this is strong enough to carry a person who cannot walk or move on their own.
“We show them what mines look like, and then we tell them where they can be found. In military trenches or bases, destroyed buildings, empty fields, forests, highways—all of these places can be contaminated with mines and unexploded ordnances. We explain why they should not go to these places, and tell them that if they see something unusual, it could be dangerous.
“When people do not know about these dangers, they are at serious risk. In a previous job, I witnessed one situation in a village near Kyiv. The entire village was littered with unexploded ordnances. People did not know about the risks, and they started gathering the ordnances with their own hands. Children were running around among them, only feet away from imminent danger.
“Sometimes ordnances can be disguised, or hidden inside of other objects. In the Donetsk region, we have seen explosive ordnances in toys, books, and mobile phones. Children are more often at risk than adults, because children like to explore and touch everything they see. They are very curious. To avoid disguised ordnances, we tell them not to touch ANYTHING in unknown areas. In these areas, everything should be considered dangerous. We also teach this to adults, but adults are less likely to touch strange objects.
“Even if the war ended today, it would still take over 100 years to demine the territory. Ukraine is one of the most explosive ordnance-contaminated places in the world. This will be the case for many years in the future. In order to clear only one contaminated field, it takes about two years. We have thousands of fields like this in Ukraine, so you can imagine how long this could take.
“I do this job because I like people and I want to protect them from danger. I used to work as a deminer, so I have seen many examples of how dangerous these devices can be. After Feb. 24, I decided to work directly with people to teach them how to live in these conditions. Any one wrong movement from any one person can be deadly for many. So, this is why I want to share information to more and more people in Ukraine.”