Unicef has claimed that at least 42 children have been killed and 109 were wounded by landmines and unexploded ordnance in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine since March 2014.
The release of child casualty figures coincides with the launch of a mine-risk education campaign by Unicef and its partners in crisis-affected areas of Ukraine. The campaign aims to provide 500,000 children and their families with lifesaving information about the risks posed by landmines and explosives.
Unicef Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of the Independent States regional director said: "The number of children killed and maimed by mines and unexploded ordnance would be significantly higher if we include non-government controlled areas.
"Lack of access to these areas is a real challenge for humanitarian actors on the ground."
Launched days before the international day of mine awareness and assistance in mine action on 4 April, the campaign includes risk educational messages in print, video and digital formats as well as the training of 100 teachers and school psychologists on mine-risk awareness.
According to Unicef, displaced families returning to their homes are still at great risk from highly hazardous materials that remain in devastated towns and villages after a year of conflict, despite the State Emergency Service of Ukraine actively clearing government-controlled areas from mines and unexploded ordnance in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
To date, the Ukrainian Government has located and removed more than 33,717 items of ordnance and landmines including items that were brightly coloured and small enough to be picked up by children.
Poirier said: "Until now, there has been very little community awareness and understanding of the dangers posed by mines and explosives used in the conflict.
"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."
Since its start in March 2014, the Ukrainian crisis has affected at least 5 million people including 1.7 million children, while more than 1.1 million people have been internally displaced in-country.
Image: Ukrainian children stand in a bomb shelter in the city of Donetsk in Ukraine. Photo: courtesy of Unicef.