Posts tagged ‘UXO’

February 27, 2014

Little help for UXO victims in Laos

Little help for UXO victims in Laos

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VIENTIANE, 27 February 2014 (IRIN) – Around 25 percent of villages in Laos are contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXOs), mainly from US bombing missions between 1964 and 1973, according to the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme, and while UXO casualties have fallen sharply in recent years there is little support for UXO victims, whose injuries can drastically affect their families.

“There are currently insufficient resources to meet the many needs of UXO survivors,” Earl Turcotte, the UN Development Programme’s chief technical adviser to the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action (NRA), told IRIN.

There is a lack of disability aid and access to quality medical care, poor coordination between the government’s UXO and disability sectors, and a lack of equal rights and opportunities, UN officials say.

Furthermore, emergency medical care is lacking in this mountainous country – one of the poorest in Asia – where about 70 percent of the population live in rural areas, many with no accessible roads.
“If we want to help in a comprehensive way, it will require further strengthening health, education and related infrastructure, which will take time,” Turcotte said.

UXO casualties dropped from a yearly average of 300 to 56 in 2012 and 41 in 2013, according to the NRA.

In 2012, the Lao government began a three-build pilot project to consolidate remote villages into development units, and help districts and provinces better serve their people, including with basic medical services.

The NRA is expected soon to finalize its first UXO victims’ assistance strategic plan to enhance medical and rehabilitation services for casualties, after the government collected data on the needs of more than 15,000 survivors.

However, the plan is only a guideline: It is not mandatory for ministries to include UXO victims and affected families in their limited budgets, campaigners say.

Weak disability sector

With no state-run disability benefits system, UXO victims rely on NGOs and foreign donors to fund their transportation, medical costs, rehabilitation, prosthetics and micro-grants to jumpstart new livelihoods.

“There’s no safety net in Laos that other countries have,” said Colette McInerney, country director for World Education, an international NGO that helps survivors.“It puts more of a burden on their families to support them financially and emotionally.”

Even if victims arrive at one of the country’s five rehab centres, professional health workers in physical therapy, occupational therapy and psychological support are almost nonexistent, experts say.
“There are very big gaps,” Anne Rouve-Khiev, country director for Handicap International, said.

To improve assistance, campaigners say it is crucial to build up the state’s disability system and local civil society; the latter has only been allowed to exist since 2009.

“The sector is still very young,” Rouve-Khiev said. “[UXO victims] can find themselves in difficult situations where there are no answers in this country.”

The government’s UXO efforts are largely focused on land clearance and UXO risk education. More than 20,000 people, many of them children, have been injured or killed by UXOs since 1973, NRA says.


October 28, 2011

US bolsters UXO clearance in Xieng Khuang, Khammuan

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The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) Laos and the United States Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement are continuing their history of successful partnership in Xieng Khuang and Khammuan provinces with a new 12 month unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance project worth US$1.4 million.

Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun ( left ) and Mr David Horrocks shake hands after signing the MOU.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) and MAG Laos was signed yesterday in Vientiane.

NRA Director Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun and MAG Country Director Mr David Horrocks jointly signed the document witnessed by US Ambassador to Laos Ms Karen Stewart and officials from the two provinces and MAG.

The project will be carried out in Phaxay, Khoun, Thathom and Nonghaet districts of Xieng Khuang province, as well as Ghommalath, Mahaxay and Bualapha districts of Khammuan province, focusing on conducting a survey for prioritisation of UXO clearance to support socio-economic development activities.

The project has built upon the success of previous projects funded by the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. Partnerships with numerous development organisations will enable MAG Laos to ensure that these clearance outputs become development outcomes.

MAG is a British non-government organisation which started operations in Laos in 1994. MAG operations in Laos are highly recognised by the Lao government.

“Since the beginning of its operations in the country, MAG Laos has been working hard to liaise with donors for funding to support its UXO clearance activities which benefit local communities, reduce injuries and deaths from dangerous UXO. In the same way UXO clearance enables local communities to access more safe land,” said Mr Phoukieo at the signing ceremony.

Since 1996, funding from the US government to support UXO clearance in Laos has reached US$30 million.

Mr Phoukhieo, represen-ting the NRA and the Lao government, expressed gratitude and thanks to the US government for its support of socio-economic development in Laos.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Mr Horrocks said extensive UXO spread across a wide swathe of the country not only poses a risk to people carrying out normal activities such as farming, but also prevents or delays development activities and indeed adds to their cost.

Through the work of five UXO clearance teams, significant amounts of contaminated land will be cleared of UXO, he said, adding that, ultimately, the project will contribute to the Lao government’s poverty eradication strategy and Millennium Development Goal No. 9.

Ms Stewart expressed her hope that the MOU would help to ensure the continuation of vital clearance work and activities that will allow Lao children to attend school in a safe environment, return land to communities for agriculture and other economic development, and allow construction of infrastructure such as better road access to healthcare facilities.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update October 28, 2011)

July 7, 2011

LAOS: UXO casualties down but challenges remain


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Photo: Toby Fricker/IRIN. Vongphone lost his hand to a cluster bomb

VIENTIANE, 6 July 2011 (IRIN) – The number of people involved in unexploded ordnance (UXO) accidents in Laos, the world’s most cluster-bombed country, has dropped from an average of 300 a year to 117 in the past two years, according to government statistics.

However, the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action (NRA) estimates more than 200,000 hectares of prime agricultural land still have to be cleared.

From 1964 to 1973, US aircraft dropped more than two million tonnes of ordnance on Laos, including 277 million cluster sub-munitions, 30 percent of which failed to detonate, according to the NRA.

The situation today is that all 17 provinces of the country and approximately 25 percent of villages suffer from various degrees of UXO contamination, the NRA reports.

Photo: Courtesy of UNDP Laos. UXO clearance outside a school

Yet despite the drop in casualties, 49-year-old farmer Vongphone still feels nervous every time he steps into his rice fields, his only source of livelihood. He lost his left hand five years ago when he set off a cluster bomb while farming.

“There is still a lot of UXO contamination on the farmland and people are afraid. It’s hard for me to work with only one hand. I can’t even support myself and the family is poorer,” he told IRIN.

The government’s new 10-year plan was presented at the Geneva inter-sessional meeting for the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which bans the use, stockpiling and production of cluster munitions, on 27 June.

It focused on clearing land in the 42 poorest districts affected – mostly along the old Ho Chi Minh trail running from the north to the south along the Vietnamese border.

The government has prioritized about 22,000 hectares to be cleared in the next 16 years.

“We need to give people more access to land and improve public utilities and infrastructure such as rural roads. The communication between villages and districts is missing,” said Maligna Saignavongs, a senior government adviser to the NRA.

UXO Lao, the national clearance operator, supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), has cleared about 24,000ha since starting operations in 1996.

In Xieng Khouang Province, northern Lao, 31-year-old Khamtoun and her team are clearing land for a new village development project. In just two weeks, 108 unexploded cluster bombs have already been found.

“I want to clear all the land so people will be safe from the bombs and then people can earn their livelihoods safely,” Khamtoun told IRIN.

Meanwhile, the long-term impact on communities is severe.

Vongphone and his wife Bounmee had to take three of their children out of school after his accident. “We didn’t have enough money to support them. Even the roof of our house was broken and I had to ask for support from the neighbour to help fix it,” said Bounmee.

The 2008 CCM entered into force in August 2010. The government of Laos hosted the First Meeting of States Parties in November 2010, which resulted in the adoption of the Vientiane Declaration and Action Plan.

Under Article 6 of the Convention, all states in a position to do so are obliged to provide assistance to those affected. This is critical for Laos if it is to scale up its work in the UXO sector.

Saleumxay Kommasith from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told IRIN he hoped the Vientiane Action Plan would ultimately result in more international funding.

In 2010, the UN said about US$30 million a year was required for the UXO sector.

In the treaty’s inaugural year, cluster munitions have been used by non-signatory states, including Thailand and Libya, according to Human Rights Watch.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

February 23, 2011

India Supports UXO Training To Lao People’s Army


February 23, 2011 13:10 PM

VIENTIANE, Laos, Feb 23 (Bernama) — The Indian Defence Forces has supported a short-term of the Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Cooperation Intensive training course to the Lao People’s Army, Lao news agency (KPL) reported.

The purpose of the training course was to upgrade knowledge and skills of Lao People’s Army personnel who are involved in the task of detection, clearance and destruction of UXOs which is a remnant of the war in Laos.

This will greatly help the Lao people to minimise and subsequently eradicate the risks and dangers of UXOs.

Over thirty Lao militaries from the Ministry of National Defence have attended a three-week training course held Monday at the 588 Engineering Battalion, Vientiane Capital.

At the opening ceremony, B.G Souvone Leuangbounmy expressed his appreciation and thanks to the government of India as well as the Indian Defence Forces which have always continued to support and assists the Lao PDR by providing materials and moral support since the day our two countries established the diplomatic ties on 2 February 1956.

Indian ambassador to the Lao PDR, Dr. Jitendra Nath Misra said that this is one of the events marking the celebration of the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Laos.

“I am particularly happy that our training team led by Captain Dhiraj Kumar has arrived here so early in the year of the 55th anniversary. I would like extend a very warm welcome to Captain Kumar and his team. Our five instructors have a proven capability and wide ranging operational experience in this field,” said Dr. Misra.

We all know that the Lao PDR is the worst sufferer in the world from UXOs, and the deadly legacy of UXOs is being felt in Laos even today, with continuing loss of lives, he went on.

More broadly, we are fully supportive of the humanitarian concerns assisting from UXOs, and are willing to assist the Lao government in clearance of explosive remnant of war and mines in a bilateral context, said Dr. Misra.

Since 1995, the Indian Defence Forces have sent the Indian Army Training Team to teach English, military tactics and computer skills to the Lao People’s Army and also provided scholarships to Lao militaries to train and study in India.


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