GENEVA, March 31. /TASS/. At least 42 children have been killed and 109 injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in east Ukraine since March last year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
The figures reported by the Ukrainian government may not reflect the actual number of child casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance in east Ukraine, UNICEF said in a statement.
"The number of children killed and maimed by mines and unexploded ordnance would be significantly higher if we include non-government controlled areas," said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, who had recently returned from visiting Ukraine’s eastern regions.
Children are at heightened risk from unexploded ordnance and landmines, which may be brightly colored and small enough to pick up or kick around, UNICEF said.
"Children could be drawn to such items, mistaking them for toys or objects of value, which can result in tragedy."
Until now, there has been very little community awareness and understanding of the dangers posed by mines and explosives in conflict-affected areas of Ukraine, Poirier said.
"That is why we are working with our partners to strengthen families’ knowledge of the hazardous munitions remaining in many communities that have seen fighting — so that children and their parents know what to watch out for and how they can stay safe," she added.
UNICEF has launched a mine-risk education campaign in crisis-affected areas of Ukraine to provide 500,000 children and their families with lifesaving information about the risks posed by landmines and explosives. The campaign includes risk educational messages in print, video and digital formats along with the training of 100 teachers and school psychologists on mine-risk awareness.
"With the 4 April International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action just days away, the situation in Ukraine is a grave reminder that despite global progress in de-mining, children and communities continue to fall victim to mines and explosive remnants of war," UNICEF said.