US, Canada pledge further funding for UXO clearance

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There were 80 million cluster munitions that did not detonate and were left scattered across 98 districts in 14 provinces.

After almost 20 years of operation, the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has made a major contribution to the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos and has been a leading humanitarian organisation.

The US government yesterday in Vientiane pledged to continue supporting MAG operations in Xieng Khuang province for a further 12 months, with a grant of more than US$2 million. The Canadian government has also provided a grant of over US$436,700 to fund clearance works in Khammuan province for five months.

Laos continues to suffer the effects of high levels of UXO contamination from cluster bombs dropped on the country 40-50 years ago, Country Detector of MAG in Laos, Mr Simon Rea, said at the signing ceremony. “This terrible legacy continues to severely affect this wonderful nation in numerous ways,” he said.

People continue to be injured or killed by UXO accidents, and sadly these individuals are usually the poorest or most vulnerable members of society, including children. UXO also has extremely negative impacts on the longterm development of the country, hindering progress towards important national and international development targets. Mr Rea said both these grants were recognition that more work needed to be done removing UXO from Lao soil.

Director of National Regulatory Authority (NRA), Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun, also signed the agreement as a representative of the Lao government. In Xieng Khuang,  MAG will be working within Nonghet, Khoun and Phaxay districts. In Khammuan, the four districts of Nhommalath, Mahaxay, Bualapha and Xaybuathong have the highest
levels of UXO contamination in the country. MAG has also provided technical support and funding for the NRA at the national and local level to develop the skills of the staff, while continuing to clear UXO according the development plans of the Lao government.

From 1964-1973 there were over 500,000 bombing flights over Laos. There were 80 million cluster munitions that did not detonate and were left scattered across 98 districts in 14 provinces. The UXO contamination continues to injure and kill innocent civilians. In 2011 there were 99 people killed. In nine months of 2012 there were a further 46 deaths. It is also major obstacle to economic development in Laos as people cannot use their land for agricultural and other purposes.

Currently, there are 46 poor districts in the country. Of those, 41 are poor districts as a result of UXO contamination

(Source: Vientiane Times, 25 Dec. 2013)