A recent report from UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) illustrates the severity of the ongoing Ukraine conflict.
How many landmines?
Between January and November of 2017, there was an average of one conflict-related child casualty a week in Eastern Ukraine, with 2/3s of these casualties being caused by undetonated landmines. This has led UNICEF to declare eastern Ukraine “one of the most mine-contaminated places on earth”.
That many landmines.
It has gotten so bad that UNICEF has been holding Mine Risk Education sessions in schools near the Ukraine contact line – 500kms of land that divides the government and non-government forces – since 2015, as many of these injuries and deaths result from children not knowing what they are when they first see them. As Aleksey, a 14-year-old Ukrainian boy maimed by one of these mines, recalls, “I picked it up and I think I pressed something, and it just exploded. There was a lot of blood and the fingers were hanging. I was so scared that I started shaking. I almost collapsed.”
In just the last 16 months, 45 schools have been damaged or destroyed, there have been 8 instances of military groups having established sites within proximity of elementary schools and preschools, and there are two separate locations where schools and these armed sites are only a few meters apart.
Furthermore, in just this school year, UNICEF found that military or armed groups have utilized six former school buildings after they were rendered unsafe, either due to their dangerous proximity to conflict zones or from the damaging of the school’s structures.
As UNICEF Ukraine Representative Giovanna Barberis. says, “Children are learning in schools with bullet holes in the walls and sandbags in windows, bomb shelters in the basements and shrapnel in schoolyards.”
UNICEF has since appealed to the US for 23.6 million but has so far received less than 3.5.
A report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) last year reveals the exact scope of the overwhelming devastation that has occurred so far:
In total, from 14 April 2014 to 15 November 2017, OHCHR recorded 35,081 conflict-related casualties in Ukraine among Ukrainian armed forces, civilians and members of the armed groups. This includes 10,303 people killed and 24,778 injured.
Overall, OHCHR estimates that a total of 4.4 million have been affected by the conflict. Keep in mind that this report is almost a year old in a now 4-year conflict – it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that these numbers have gone up.
Conversely, it does appear that the number of conflict-related casualties have been going down exponentially since the beginning of the conflict (perhaps the only good thing that can be said).
I would highly recommend anyone interested in following the hyperlink above for a much more comprehensive understanding of the conflict and its casualties.