17-year-old Taras* lives with his parents on their farm, where he takes care of the animals. One of his favourites is a lamb which he has been bottle-feeding ever since its mother abandoned it.
At first glance, he is a happy energetic young boy, but a closer look at his right-hand reveals the scars of a past accident – one that is tragically common in areas affected by armed conflict.
Two years ago, Taras and his friends were hanging out at an abandoned factory building, where they found a metallic cylinder. It exploded, and two of the boys had to be taken to hospital, where doctors had to amputate three of Taras’ fingers.
There has been an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Mines and other explosive remnants of war are a serious threat to the lives and safety of civilians in the area.
7% of all mine victims are children. Since June 2014, 123 child casualties have been recorded, with 29 killed and 94 injured. Most of the casualties took place among boys under 17 from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
Taras is in the 11th grade and is set to finish school this year. He always dreamed of being a chef, but the serious injury to his right hand means he has been forced to put this dream aside.
Seeing their son’s love for animals and his talents on the farm, Taras’ parents put him in charge of a piece of their farm so he could develop his skills. Today he is raising pigs, a calf, rabbits, and his favourite baby lamb.
DRC assisted Taras in acquiring a laptop as a part of the Mine Victim Assistance programme so that he could continue studying despite having limited use of his right hand. Thanks to the gracious support from UNICEF and the German Government, DRC case workers found online courses for him to keep learning Ukrainian, mathematics and English, and found other options for him to continue his education. For now, Taras has decided to wait on applying to college or university, but to spend this year raising his animals and working on the farm.
Even though the responsible commission decided that Taras should recieve conflict victim status, it wasn’t awarded as his accident took place outside of the actual conflict zone. In the meantime, he is receiving disability benefits as his lawyers work to appeal the decision.
*The name is changed to protect the identity.