IT Ukraine Association and UNICEF have signed a memorandum of understanding to foster cooperation on protection of the rights of and educating children and youth. The first outcome of the joint work will be the development of an interactive virtual reality product to raise awareness among children in eastern Ukraine about the danger of mines.
UNICEF, together with mine action partners, will provide technical expertise, guidance and global experience on raising children’s awareness about how to behave in a context of explosive devices in the conflict zone. This will form the basis for an interactive virtual reality product that will also enable the measuring of awareness before and after its use. In autumn, UNICEF will launch special training sessions featuring the virtual reality component focusing on children living in eastern Ukraine, as well as in other localities where ammunition depots are located.
After six years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, children need different approaches to security issues. Learning through entertainment can help children and adolescents to gain new experiences, learn important information and develop lifesaving skills,” said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, “This is the first time globally that UNICEF has developed a virtual reality product for mine awareness. And this is a big step towards changing behavioral models. We believe that cooperation with the IT industry and Ukraine's experience will be instrumental for educating children in humanitarian emergencies in conflict-affected countries.
Kostiantyn Vasiuk, Executive Director of IT Ukraine Association, stressed: “The virtual reality product we are currently developing in partnership with WeAR Studio and UNICEF will clearly demonstrate to children the dangers of mishandling explosives. We are grateful for the trust and the opportunity to apply the knowledge of Ukrainian IT specialists, as this cooperation will be a unique case of IT technology helping save the lives of children and youth in areas of armed conflict in Ukraine, and perhaps globally.
More than 430,000 children are still living in areas close to the ‘contact line’ in eastern Ukraine, on both sides. According to UNICEF, only 57 per cent of the children under 12 surveyed in the conflict area know how to identify dangerous objects. And one in three of the child casualties has been caused by mines and explosive remnants of war.