International Mine Action Day: the challenge for Laos
Laos has the unwanted distinction of being the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world. The use of more than 270 million sub-munitions (called ‘bombies’ in Laos) released from cluster bombs during the Vietnam War continue to have a devastating effect today by killing and maiming children and adults, as well as making potentially productive land inaccessible.
In ChildFund’s target villages in Nonghet district, this issue has a very real dimension with the first clearance sweep of a school construction site in Paka village yielding 160 bombies and 17 live bullets. Children are at particular risk from bombies as the munitions may be brightly coloured and are small and easy for children to handle.
More than 50 per cent of recorded injuries and deaths from unexploded ordnance (UXO) have involved children, from a total of 50,000 recorded civilian accidents since 1964 (given limited recording in some areas, this figure is likely to be higher).
ChildFund Laos is working with the support of MAG, an organisation specialised in UXO clearance, to ensure that children and their communities in target villages are no longer exposed to the risk of UXOs in their immediate environment. ChildFund will continue working in partnership with these communities to improve access to quality education and clean water.