The Government of Flanders has stepped up to tackle Ukraine’s pressing landmine crisis, granting 1 million euros in funding to APOPO to support the training and deployment of Technical Survey Dog (TSD) teams in the country’s most affected regions. With estimates suggesting over a third of Ukraine’s land may be contaminated with landmines and other unexploded ordnance, this financial support is vital for urgent landmine clearance.
The Government of Flanders is a longstanding supporter of APOPO’s initiatives. It played a pivotal role in allowing APOPO to make a lasting impact on the safety landscape of Mozambique by supporting the mine action program from 2008 until 2015 when the country was declared mine-free. Additionally, the Flanders Government supported APOPO’s tuberculosis screening program in Mozambique from 2012 until 2022.
Ukraine’s Persistent Landmine Challenge
Even before the outbreak of war with Russia in 2022, Ukraine grappled with landmine and Explosive Remnant of War (ERW) contamination from previous world wars and conflict in the eastern region of Donbas since 2014. This contamination has increased significantly since war broke out, particularly in areas once occupied by Russian forces, making regions like Mikolaiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy high-priority targets for Mine Action.
The landmines and UXOs spread across the country are a constant threat to the Ukrainian population and hinder access to fertile agricultural land, with significant consequences to both the local and international economies.
The hazardous areas across Ukraine were contaminated quite recently, and prior to deploying slow and expensive clearance techniques, there is a need to survey them, establish the boundaries allowing to release the rest of the land back to productive use. APOPO’s Technical Survey Dog Teams, carrying track & trace systems and searching through vegetation are especially built for this type of activities.
APOPO will operate in cooperation with Mines Advisory Group (MAG), since both organizations already work together with TSD in Cambodia and Azerbaijan. The central training facility in Ukraine is being established in Sumy, thanks to a vital cooperation with the Sumy National Agrarian University (SNAU). In 2023 APOPO started the training of the first group of 12 women that graduated from SNAU to become TSD handlers. The group is currently in training in Cambodia and will be mobilized to Ukraine after the winter, in late March 2024.
APOPO’s Progress and Funding Strategy
APOPO, through multiple visits to Ukraine, has verified the efficiency of its Technical Survey Dogs (TSDs) on the ground. The funding from the Government of Flanders will be divided into three phases to support APOPO in training, accrediting, and deploying TSD teams in high-priority regions. The goal of the project is to survey at least 5 million square meters (the equivalent of 700 football fields) by the end of 2025.
Collaborative Impact in Ukraine
APOPO acknowledges this crucial support from the Government of Flanders for its TSD team in Ukraine. The funding is a practical commitment to addressing landmine threats in a heavily mine-affected region. We sincerely thank the Flanders Government for their steadfast support, which is expected to have a significant and measurable impact on the safety and prosperity of the local population.