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Eastern Ukraine one of the areas most contaminated by landmines in the world

04 Apr 2019

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After five years of conflict, landmines and explosive hazards continue to kill and maim civilians, who face daily serious risks to their safety, wellbeing and basic rights due to the proliferation of landmines and ERW. In government-controlled areas (GCA) alone, an estimated two million people are exposed to landmine risks, with 70 per cent of families struggling to go about their daily lives to avoid them, whether it be going to get food, school, home, hospital or crossing the ‘contact line’.

On the International Mine Awareness Day, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Ms. Osnat Lubrani calls for the greater protection of millions of men, women and children who live, work and go to schools in the areas littered with landmines and other explosive hazards in eastern Ukraine.

Over 40 per cent of casualties among civilians in eastern Ukraine in 2018 were caused by landmines and explosive hazards. “Large stretches of areas on both sides of the “contact line” are still contaminated by landmines, which prevent safe access of civilians to farmlands, hospitals, schools and other essential services,” said Ms. Lubrani, speaking at the International Mine Awareness Day, commemorated each year globally to raise awareness about the lethal risk of landmines. “Tragically, eastern Ukraine ranks amongst one of the most contaminated areas in the world,” noted Ms. Lubrani.

For three consecutive years, Ukraine has had the highest number of anti-vehicle mine incidents globally. “Landmines continue to be planted in eastern Ukraine causing deaths and maiming of children and adults,” said Ms. Lubrani, noting that since April 2014, over 1,000 civilians have been killed or injured by mines and explosive remnants of war. The mine-related incidents remained the leading cause of child casualties in 2018. “Using landmines, especially in populated areas and close to critical civilian infrastructure, must be stopped immediately,” Ms. Lubrani stressed.

In December 2018, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted the mine action law, which determines the legal basis, principles and main components of demining activities in eastern Ukraine. “I welcome the progress made by the Government of Ukraine in passing this law,” emphasized Ms. Lubrani. “It is an important step forward in addressing the issue of mine contamination and the legislative challenges it entails,” she stressed.

Thanks to donor contributions, humanitarian partners have been continuously supporting demining and mine clearance operations in eastern Ukraine. In 2018 alone, the mine risk education programmes, which entails to raise awareness about safety rules in the mine contaminated areas, reached more than 54,000 people, of whom 36 per cent were children. “I call on the international community to expand their support to mine action to protect civilians and facilitate recovery efforts, where necessary,” Ms. Lubrani concluded.