Thousands of children all over the world are in danger of death or injury from land mines and unexploded bombs. An estimated 100 million land mines lie buried in many different countries. They are used by soldiers and terrorists and are easily available and cheap to buy. Land mines must be removed to prevent children and adults being killed and maimed – but this is difficult, slow and expensive as few areas are mapped to show where mines have been laid. Children can learn to be alert to the dangers in areas where mines and other unexploded weapons are known to exist, learn how to avoid them and encourage others to do the same.
Land mines come in many different sizes, shapes and colours. They are usually painted to make them hard to see: green in forest areas and brown or black for farming areas. Whatever the design of a land mine, it can never tell the difference between war and peace, or the difference between the steps of a child or a soldier.
Mines come in all shapes, sizes and colours. They should never be picked up, but only destroyed by mine clearance teams.
Effects on children’s lives
- Children are in danger as they often collect firewood or water, look after cattle or play in areas which may be mined.
- Children suffer when family and friends are killed or injured by mines.
- Children injured by mines who need artificial limbs are unlikely to have their needs met as a growing child requires a new limb every six months.
- Children with permanent injuries may give up all hope for the future.
- Children go hungry because activities such as farming, fishing, grazing cattle or gathering roots cannot continue in areas which have been mined.
- Children become fearful because everyday activities like walking to school, visiting friends or going to market can be dangerous.
Some ideas for role plays
- A group of children have taken the goats to graze. Maria wanders off on her own. She sees a sign with a picture of an explosion and realises she has walked into a mined area. She is very frightened and calls out to her friends. What do they do? How do they help her? What advice can they give?
- Phuong and Hai are walking to school after a heavy rain storm when they see a suspicious object near the path. What will they do? Who will they tell? How will they remember where they saw the object?
- Quy and his brother had been digging for worms for the family ducks when a land mine exploded. The mine killed his brother, took off Quy’s right hand and leg and left him blind in one eye. When he came out of hospital he did not want to go back to school. How did his friends help him?
Teachers can train children to recognise what mines look like. They can help them learn the warning signs (sticks, coloured tape, notices) used to show that a mine is nearby. They may be able to invite mine clearance teams to talk at the school or invite children injured by mines to share their stories.
Most importantly, teachers can help children learn what to do if they see a suspected land mine. Local authorities may use variations in different countries, so always follow the local procedure when available. See the example of a procedure below.
If you're a child and you see a land mine - what should you do? This is a typical procedure, but find out the exact version for use in your country.
Children could draw posters to explain the correct procedures. They could make up role plays, games, songs or poems to help them learn and remember the correct steps. Children should never be encouraged to go looking for mines.
This information is adapted from an activity sheet on land mines prepared by Child to Child, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AL. Details of how to obtain more information are on page 15.