Rebuilding resilience through soccer in Ukraine

In one of the most mine-affected countries in the world, Spirit of Soccer (SoS) Ukraine trains youths on bomb safety.

According to UNICEF, over 1.8 million Ukrainians live among mines and need immediate mine action services The number of mine accidents in 2023 steadily increasing each month, particularly in the Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Kherson regions, where dozens of mine-related accidents are reported every month. Many have been killed or injured by explosive remnants of war or left with lifelong disabilities.

Explosive remnants of war in one of the villages in Mykolaiv oblast, Ukraine. ©Irakli Chitanava/iMMAP Inc. Ukraine

To tackle the issue of landmine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) contaminations in Ukraine, humanitarian mine action partners have intensified their efforts by conducting demining operations and providing Explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) across the country. iMMAP Inc TPM team contributes to these operations by monitoring and verifying the activities during the field visits to enhance transparency and accountability of mine action. 

Spirit of Soccer - Ukraine, one of the iMMAP Inc.’s implementing partners, raised awareness among youths living in conflict and post-conflict regions with high levels of mine contaminations on bomb safety through soccer matches and sports activities. This approach allows children to distract themselves from the realities of war, communicate with each other and learn about explosive objects and the algorithm of actions in case of detection of dangerous and suspicious findings.

Spirit of Soccer's Explosive Ordnance Risk Education session in Chernihiv, Ukraine, 22nd of June 2023. © Irakli Chitanava/ iMMAP Inc. Ukraine

"Thanks to our training, children in a simple and understandable way, through football games and exercises, learn essential information about mines: how to distinguish them, where they can be hidden, and how to respond to a possible threat. I am so happy that our children have become more aware of all the dangers and risks surrounding them and learned the main messages - do not touch, stay away, communicate and report!"Oksana Plahova, Coach at the Spirit of Soccer in Ukraine

Moreover, the SoS program focuses on social integration to landmine victims and people with disabilities, while simultaneously stimulating emotional and psychological healing in children living in war-affected regions. 

Spirit of Soccer's Explosive Ordnance Risk Education session in Chernihiv, Ukraine, 22nd of June 2023. © Irakli Chitanava/ iMMAP Inc. Ukraine

"I am glad that our organization motivates the children to continue playing sports and to live the full life in the difficult time of war, understanding the main value - the safety of their own life. Together with parents, we emphasize the attention of young athletes on the most important for everyone - to preserve life and to take care of their own safety! " Oleksandra Vladimirova, the Project Manager of the Spirit of Soccer in Ukraine

Mine risk prevention, clearance and monitoring are essential to improving civilian safety and rebuilding resilient communities in Ukraine's conflict-affected regions. 

According to the State of Emergency of Ukraine (SESU), nearly 30% of the country continues to be contaminated with ERW, making demining operations and providing EORE across the country a priority for SoS, iMMAP Inc and other humanitarian mine action partners. 

The work of Spirit of Soccer's Explosive Ordnance Risk Education teams would not have been achievable without the generous support of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA).

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