More than half of people in eastern Ukraine know about mine risk, but their knowledge is incomplete, UNDP study reveals

Findings of UNDP study “Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices” on mines and explosive ordnance in eastern Ukraine should improve awareness about the risks mines pose to health and life.

Photo: UNDP

Since the start of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, both state bodies and international organizations have conducted explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) in the region. Such awareness raising helps to prevent casualties, and explains what to do if such an incident occurs. Each mine action operator has developed their own educational sessions, and adapted them to various population categories — such as adults and children.

But has this EORE actually resulted in fewer casualties? According to the UN Human Rights, throughout the whole period of the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine, over 1 000 civilians have been affected by mines and explosive remnants of war (data as of 30 April 2021). This is around 10 percent of the total casualties produced by the conflict.

Thus, despite all the efforts made to inform the population, some key questions remain unanswered: Do residents of eastern Ukraine remember what to do if they see a suspicious object? How has their attitude to their own safety and safety of their relatives changed during the years of the ongoing conflict?

To find answers to these questions, UNDP conducted a “Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices” (KAP) survey on mines and explosive ordnance as a part of its Mine Action Project. The study was conducted by UNDP under the UN Peacebuilding and Recovery Programme (UN RPP) and funded by the government of Canada.

A total of 799 residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (in government-controlled areas, especially along the “contact line”) participated in the study. Fifty-four percent of them were women. According to Andriy Kushnir, the director of the Mine Action Fund, there were difficulties in finding men respondents.

“Men were more suspicious of strangers who turned up asking questions,” Kushnir said. “They were very reluctant to provide personal data for the questionnaires. Apart from that, a lot of men have left home to earn money elsewhere.”

Photo: UNDP

The findings of the study show that 71 percent of respondents know about mine action — mainly regarding explosive ordnance. Nearly 8 out of 10 respondents confirmed that they had received EORE.

However, this is not a guarantee of a safe behaviour. Olga Solomka, the KAP study manager in Donetsk oblast, was astonished by what she discovered while conducting the survey.

“Even though people know about the risks from mines to their lives, they consciously take those risks,” Solomka said. “They are often forced to do so to sustain their livelihood.”

“This is especially true for those who live along the ‘contact line.’”

Another important finding of the KAP study was that EORE is often conducted only partially or in violation of standards. For example, mines or other explosive ordnance are sometimes brought to schools, which is strictly prohibited, as this may create the false impression that it is safe to touch them.

In general, the level of knowledge of rules of conduct varies significantly among different population groups. “We found that adolescents are often better informed than adults,’’ Solomka said. At the same time, research also shows that teenagers are more likely to take risks. Four out of 10 adolescents said that they would not avoid potentially mined areas.

The conducting of the KAP study was greatly affected by both the general instability in the conflict-affected areas and pandemic-related restrictive measures.

“Due to COVID-19, we had to lower our expectations,” Kushnir said. “It was quite difficult to get results from schools, colleges and universities. A similar situation could be observed in many enterprises that introduced a strict quarantine.”

Photo: UNDP

Despite these limitations, the KAP study produced findings from 799 individual interviews, and from 26 focus groups and consultations with mine action stakeholders. The findings show that even though EORE is conducted and some knowledge is delivered, this is not sufficient. Solomka emphasizes that Ukraine still does not have a unified system for delivering EORE. Scattered, fragmented knowledge about mine risk is leading to a high number of casualties among the civilian population in the conflict-affected areas.

The KAP study findings suggest the following:

· EORE should be improved;

· A unified national EORE system should be created;

· The number of casualties from mines and explosive remnants of war should be reduced.

For more information see the full study here.

________________________________________

United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Twelve international partners support the Programme: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden & Switzerland.