Floating mines dislodged by flood waters from the destroyed Kakhovka dam in Kherson are endangering children’s lives with Save the Children launching a campaign about the risks and how to act if faced with a lethal floating object.

Since escalation of the war on 24 February 2022, the UN has verified 879 casualties from landmines and unexploded remnants of war, including 94 child casualties. More than 500 children have been killed in total during the war, according to UN figures, altgough the actual number is likely to be much higher. 

Most of the land in Ukraine pockmarked by mines, unexploded ordnances (UXO) and explosive devices (IEDs) is in the east and south of the country, near the frontline.

Following the destruction of Kakhovka dam, along with the challenge of finding safe, clean drinking water and repairing damaged homes, the 17,000 people living in the flood zone and along the Dnipro River now face the added difficulty of keeping children safe from floating landmines. 

Contaminated land in Ukraine has risen tenfold since February last year, to around 180,00 square kms – an area equal to Florida in the US or half of Germany. Floodwaters snaking through settlements in eastern Ukraine threaten to widen this deadly expanse, and some landmines could move kilometres in the days and weeks ahead.

Save the Children, together with partner the Ukrainian Deminers Association, has launched an online campaign in Kherson region to tackle the new challenge posed by floating mines. It includes tips on the dangers of mines, and what to do if faced with a lethal floating object. Most mines are invisible in water, and some don’t sink, creating a deadly risk to boys and girls.

 “Both banks of the Dnipro River were under heavy fire and in addition to mines there are still a lot of unexploded ordnances, all washed away by water. Predicting how a mining specialist would install a mine is one thing; predicting how nature will move this or that explosive object is quite another,” said the head of the Ukrainian Deminers Association, Timur Pistryuga.

 He added that logistics in the area will be significantly complicated by floodwater, and delivering humanitarian assistance will also be severely impacted.

 Amjad Yamin, Advocacy and Communications Director at Save the Children Ukraine, said:

 “People in southern Ukraine have survived 16 months of a brutal war. Situated near the frontline, they live under the constant shadow of shelling, heavy fighting and bombardment. Now, floodwaters pouring from the destroyed Kakhovka dam have created an additional humanitarian crisis. Not only will families struggle to access safe, clean drinking water, but the added risk of floating mines poses a grave danger to children.

 “Underwater demining is a difficult, challenging task. Mines and other explosive ordinances pose a serious danger to children. The fact that these dangerous weapons of war are now more mobile due to flood waters places additional pressure on families already reeling from a devastating conflict.”

 Save the Children is working in flood-affected regions of Ukraine including Mykolaiv and Kherson, with plans to deliver nearly 60,000 litres of drinking water – around 3,000 bottles – in coming days. The child rights organisation will also deliver around 13,000 hygiene kits and 5,000 food parcels to families in need, as well as deliver cash assistance to families to help them pay for vital food and supplies.

 Save the Children has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, delivering humanitarian aid to children and their families. It is now supporting refugee families across Europe and helping children to access education and other critical services.