Ukraine has the largest number of people displaced by conflict. Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine in 2022, 6.2 million people have been forced to leave their homes, more than half of whom are still displaced today. In addition to the human cost, almost all infrastructure has been destroyed in the conflict zone. As a result of armed conflict and occupation by foreign armed forces, tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land and arable fields were mined and abandoned. The consequences are obvious: Food security is at risk for millions of Ukrainians and will remain so for years to come. Meanwhile the majority of the mines are concentrated in 18 administrative regions located along the contact line — 10 with mines on both sides and eight with mines only on the Ukrainian side.
What does this mean for the people of Ukraine?
Land mines are very dangerous weapons that can kill or mutilate people and livestock, destroy infrastructure and prevent economic development in affected areas. As far as we know, more than 30 million hectares of agricultural land and arable fields were mined and abandoned in Ukraine. As a result millions of Ukrainians are at risk of food insecurity for years to come. IDPs and refugees have been trying to rebuild their lives in the places where they have been living since the beginning of the war. Some of them managed to restart their businesses and earn a living, but many of them are still impoverished, unemployed and struggling to feed their families. The lack of financial resources and inability to return to their original homes and lands, especially in the conflict zone, leave them no other choice but to stay where they are and adapt to a new reality.
The land mine problem
Based on international experience, demining can last from 5 to 10 years. The Russian occupiers use remote mining systems, cynically install uncontrolled mine barriers on the territory of populated areas and leave behind a large number of particularly dangerous specially installed explosive devices that pose a mortal danger and a threat to the civilian population. These mines and ammunition were found on the territories of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The total number of various mines, cluster elements and specially installed explosive devices is about 10% of all detected and defused explosive objects. Currently, operational demining has been carried out on an area of more than 2.7 million hectares.
Rebuilding a broken country
The war has left a mark on all spheres of life in Ukraine. Farms and livestock were destroyed, roads and bridges were blown up, infrastructure was heavily damaged, houses and public buildings were left in ruins, schools and hospitals were no longer functional. There was a time when Ukraine was a major agricultural producer in Europe. This country produced about 50% of the world’s supply of sunflower oil, 50% of the world’s supply of peanuts, 35% of the world’s supply of barley and 10% of the world’s supply of rye. Now they are left with not even one-tenth of this production.
The armed conflict in Ukraine has left massive destruction in the country’s agricultural sector. Mines have been planted across 30 million hectares of land, and it will take at least 15 years to clear all of them. This will also take a financial toll. The government estimates that the total cost of demining operations will be $20 billion. Ukraine needs assistance from the international community to restart its agricultural sector. There is no doubt that the situation in Ukraine is critical and needs immediate attention. After the end of all hostilities in Ukraine, it will take one year for the initial demining of 270,000 square kilometers of territory, and 10 years for the complete demining.