Ukraine – the devastating cost of landmines

Millie Bruce-Watt Communications Coordinator for MAG 22nd February 2024

As the war in Ukraine enters its third year, it’s clear that landmines have become one of the main weapons of war. Ukraine looks set to become the most mined country in the world. IBT member MAG is at the centre of efforts to raise awareness and to clear the mines, as Millie Bruce-Watt writes.

It’s two years since Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Some 730 days of relentless fighting, with a severe human cost, too devastating to fully comprehend. 

According to the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, at least 10,000 civilians, including more than 560 children, have been killed and over 18,500 injured since the first day of the invasion, although the Monitoring Mission acknowledges that these numbers are significantly under representing the reality of the position.

With the conflict ongoing, there is no empirical way to determine the degree of landmine contamination, but the World Bank’s current estimate is that it will cost some US$37 billion to demine Ukraine. Each day that number grows due to the continued use of mines and munitions and the stubbornly high failure rate among certain types of explosives.

The importance of raising awareness amongst children

MAG joined the emergency response in April 2022, in partnership with the Ukrainian authorities and other humanitarian agencies, delivering life-saving messages about how to identify and report explosive remnants of war to children in schools and to communities via social media and state TV and radio.

In 2023, we trained dozens of deminers and, this year, clearance work is set to begin in Mykolaiv, Kherson and Kharkiv – the three regions with the highest amount of civilian casualties. An additional 150 deminers will soon be trained to bolster the teams’ efforts. 

As an organisation that is committed to saving lives and easing suffering by finding and destroying landmines and unexploded bombs, MAG advocates for communities directly impacted by the grief and chaos of war. That’s why we do everything we can to keep all conflicts – from crises unfolding largely out of the international spotlight to the biggest armed conflict in Europe since the Second World War – at the forefront of people’s minds.

To do so, we have tried to raise awareness in different ways, on a variety of plaftorms. 

Media coverage is vital in drawing attention to this issue

Since 24 February 2022, we’ve worked with journalists from The Kyiv Independent, Reuters, Washington Post, ITV, and Sky News, among others, to provide analysis on the malign presence of explosive remnants of war and stress the urgent need for humanitarian aid in too many areas.

To keep Ukraine in the hearts and minds of MAG audiences and supporters, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with our Ukrainian staff, who have been able to provide insights into the realities of war, and its devastating impact on their lives and their communities.

As the first Christmas approached, and thousands faced brutal conditions with no or limited electricity, water, and heating, we spoke to Kateryna, a Project Manager for MAG’s Ukraine response. She spoke powerfully about how the ongoing attacks, critically damaged infrastructures, and severely contaminated land coupled with the then sub-zero temperatures were exacerbating challenges.

Street art highlights the hope of the Ukrainian people

In March 2023, over a year on from Russia’s invasion, we partnered with Ukrainian artist Aleksey Postulga to develop a number of murals reflecting the struggles and hopes of the Ukrainian people. We included in the murals a QR code linking to a Facebook page with vital safety information and details on what to do if someone were to come across unexploded ordnance.  

In November 2023 – 21 months on from the invasion – MAG launched its annual digital and postal Christmas appeal, calling for donations to help save lives in Ukraine. Supporters could donate to cover the costs of risk education materials needed for a full class of children; a pair of boots for a MAG deminer; food for a mine-detection dog; or a first-aid kit for teams working on the minefields. 

Throughout the Christmas period, the appeal was punctuated by stories from MAG staff and their communities, all of whom looked back at their lives before the war, working as teachers, nurses, or doctors, now as translators, drivers or deminers. Their stories were illustrated by Ukrainian photographer Julia Kochetova, who poignantly captured just as much of their strength as their unjust suffering.

The Christmas appeal allowed us to continue to raise awareness of the severity of the situation, and invite MAG supporters to take action.

As the war enters its third year, casualties continue to mount

Within the first two months of war, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described Ukraine as “an epicentre of unbearable heartache and pain”. Two years on, his sentiments are still very much relevant today. Casualties are still mounting; cities, and lives, are in ruins. 

Even when this conflict eventually comes to an end, its legacy will continue to have a devastating impact for years to come. That’s why it’s essential that we continue to raise awareness and support affected communities for as long as it’s needed. 

Learn more about MAG’s work in Ukraine:

Millie Bruce-Watt is Communications Coordinator for MAG

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