Issue 4.1 | February 2000 | Information in this issue may be outdated. Click here to link to the most recent issue.
the Threat of Landmines for Kosovo's Children
Margaret S. Busé
started mine-awareness activities in Kosovo February 1998. At that time
the threat was perceived to be the result of the indiscriminate planting
of landmines. The high rate of injuries among children and youth indicated
UNICEF's need to target children and their parents. Children and youth
are especially at risk because of their natural inquisitiveness and risk-taking
Initially, mine awareness started in the camps and targeted the refugees,
who were in preparation for their return home. Mine-awareness messages
were developed using posters and leaflets. Immediately after the signing
of the peace treaty, the Transitional/Repatriation phase was initiated
by UNMACC, specifying safety behavior. Local media were involved in disseminating
this material, along with UNICEF trained teachers and community workers
in mine-awareness education. Surveys showed that this initial campaign
was successful with refugees well aware of mines and behavior altering
steps so as not to become a landmine victim.
While there are
some common elements in mine-affected communities throughout the world, effective
campaigns are those that are adapted to local needs, culture and traditions.
After conducting fieldwork and information about behaviors and victims, mine-awareness
programs can be tailored for target groups. A monitoring and evaluation component
is part of all operations. UNICEF returns to schools and makes sure children
have attended mine-awareness sessions, where needs-assessment surveys are
conducted and external evaluations are all scheduled.
Enda Dowd, UNICEF
mine awareness coordinator in Kosovo, feels that while it is early to identify
successes, the Child to Child Program has proved popular with staff, education
authorities and children. This unique project uses a child-to-child strategy.
Children ages 10 through 14 are trained to disseminate information about the
dangers of mines and UXO to their peer groups, younger children and their
families. Games and other interactive approaches are used. Children are encouraged
to create their own communication tools so that they can pass this information
along easily to children and adults.
that Dowd mentions is the easy start-up of UNMACC. "Unfortunately, one
of the main challenges has been the number of agencies coming to Kosovo, and
not going through UNMACC to identify where they are working. This makes coordination
of efforts very difficult." The UNMACC produces a map indicating where
organizations are working. Dowd also mentions the lack of accurate casualty
data as being a concern. "Without a proper evaluation of the effectiveness
of the mine-education campaign, the drop in casualty figures cannot be attributed
to it." Assessments will be carried out in the spring.
are that casualties will drop over the winter period and then increase in
spring when there will be more movement, and farmers and villagers will be
anxious to get back in their fields. An assessment after spring will be particularly
important," said Dowd.
The World Health
Organization is in the process of establishing a comprehensive data collection
system for mine/UXO victims in Kosovo, which involves the ICRC, and local
clinics and hospitals. UNICEF states those children below the age of 14 account
for 30 percent of landmine injuries and young adults between 15-24 are another
41 percent of injuries.
campaigns have been especially challenging. The educational system within
Kosovo has been devastated, with many schools vandalized or destroyed and
an undetermined number of teachers injured or killed. In addition, landmines
laid during the conflict, cluster bombs, UXO and the possibility of booby
traps left by fleeing combatants, create an especially dangerous environment
for children. A number of schools were used by the military and have been
littered with mines, UXO and booby traps, which hinder the repair and reconstruction
process. In many cases children are not aware of the danger. One boy, looking
for books to read at a school, was injured. A mine/UXO-assessment has been
conducted and organizations have been tasked with clearance projects, but
this is a lengthy process.
casualty figures from UNMAC for 1999 are:
A rapid assessment
by UNICEF in an area west and south of Pristina, showed that out of 13 schools
inspected, five were demolished, four were burnt, and one was suspected of
being booby trapped. Only three were deemed safe and usable. The children's
agency will provide educational kits or school-in-a-box, which contain both
classroom and student supplies. The kits will also help to mobilize teachers,
including those whom UNICEF is working with in refugee camps.
Dodona National Puppet Theater is organizing a puppet show, which will incorporate
mine/UXO awareness for children. They intend to start their puppet tour in
areas of high mine awareness priority.
UNICEF has alerted
people to the danger of landmines and will intensify mine awareness activities
in Kosovo itself. The effort is focusing on providing mine/UXO-awareness educational
materials in local languages to primary schools and communities. The development
of resources to promote human and child rights and assist local reconciliation
efforts through peace education will also be explored. The agency expressed
hope that by restoring primary education, it will help Kosovo's children to
have a tangible sense that normal life can and will go on.
Nobel Peace Prize
winner Jody Williams and Canada's Ambassador for Mine Action, Jill E. Sinclair,
visited Kosovo on June 30 to July 1, 1999, to highlight UNICEF's mine-awareness
activities there and to appeal for an intensification of demining in the war-torn
province. "The risk presented by mines and unexploded ordnance in Kosovo
is extremely high," Williams said. "Children are particularly in
danger and many have already suffered severe injury or death because they
have inadvertently stepped on these lethal and illegal weapons of war."
mine-awareness education campaign, involves:
- Training teachers,
social workers and volunteers in landmine-awareness skills.
of mine-awareness posters.
- Use of mobile
theatre groups, radio broad casts and other means of public education.
at border crossing points and in their home communities, of information
leaflets to returning refugees.
everywhere are a scourge of innocents, and of children in particular,"
said Williams. "I hope the trip to Kosovo will make it clear that an
urgent priority must be placed on demining, and that concrete steps must be
taken quickly to protect innocent children, women and others in the still-volatile
province," said Sinclair.
UNICEF has been
appointed as the U.N. focal point for mine-awareness education. They have
developed International Guidelines to promote effective planning, implementation,
monitoring and evaluating of mine-awareness programs. UNICEF and its partners
have distributed more than one million posters and leaflets in Kosovo. 320,000
Superman comic books have also been distributed. Dowd said, "The overall
goal for the program is to change people's behavior and reduce the casualty
rate. Specifically we want to continue to incorporate mine-awareness education
into school curriculum using a consultative process with local education authorities."
Kosovo Office & Prishtina Field Unit
U.N. House, 1st Floor
Zejnel Salihu Street #4
3800 Prishtina Kosovo
Tel: ++ 381 38 549 230
Fax: ++ 873 761 660 753