14 fully-trained mine-detection dogs have now arrived at the Norwegian People’s Aid’s dog-training center in Romney, Sumy Oblast. Their operational mine-action work will commence once authorizations are provided by Ukrainian authorities
According to the British Ministry of Defense, Ukrainian civilians are killed daily by landmines, especially in Kherson and Kharkiv. By mid April, more than 750 civilians had been killed in the ongoing fighting since the Russians invaded the Ukraine in February last year. On average, one in eight civilian casualty is a child. There is a risk that landmines will claim additional lives upon the arrival of Spring, with the increase of agricultural activity. It is expected it will take decades to clear landmines that have been placed during the war.
The Norwegian People’s Aid currently operates in the Mykolaiv and Sumy regions by undertaking non-technical surveys. This process involves surveying mine-fields and other areas affected by explosive contamination. As of March 2023, NPA has surveyed over 360,000 square meters of land. Such so-called non-technical surveys (NTS) have become an increasingly important aspect of operational mine action, and include information-gathering on previous military activity in the area and data acquired from the parties to the conflict, as well as knowledge gathered from the local population. Through such surveys one is able to target areas that presumably have been affected by explosives-contamination and avoid focusing time and resources on other areas.
NPA supports the local organisation Ukrainian Deminers Association by offering training to the civilian population in front-line communities in Donbas. Such activities include training on methods in how best to protect oneself during a military attack, as well as how to lower ones’ risk in areas affected by undetonated explosives.
NPA’s current geographical focus is in Mykolaiv – an area affected by intensive fighting in the Fall of 2022 and will be aimed at releasing land to the population for agricultural purposes and to ensure food security.
Mine Detection Dogs
NPA also cooperates with Ukrainian emergency services , and have built a training center in Romney, Sumy Oblast for mine-detection dogs. We import the dogs from NPA’s Global Training Centre in Sarajevo. Eight of the dogs will be used by the Ukrainian Directorate for Civilian Protection (SESU) and six will be used in NPA’s own operations. All of the dogs arrived in country on the 20th of April.
NPA is currently awaiting its operational credentials in the Ukraine, and will commence mine-action activities as soon as we achieve those. Initially this will be undertaken by two manual teams – each consisting of eight so-called operators, but NPA expects to increase our activities significantly with additional teams later in the year. We also plan to distribute the mine-detection dogs and machines along with the teams, and are hopefully operational in June /July.
NPA has 48 employees, as of the 18th of April. 30 of these are mine-clearance operators, of which five are female.
NPA’s largest donor in the Ukraine is the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.