New Zealand will provide NZD10 million (US$7.2 million), one of the biggest single contributions made through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to Laos’ UXO sector.
The funding will include trialling innovative New Zealand technology which destroys unexploded ordnance (UXO) by melting casings without having to dig up or explode each piece, making it safer and easier to clear, particularly in densely populated or built up areas.
The funding will allow for long-term planning by UXO Lao in Xieng Khuang province with financing certainty for the next four years.
The announcement was made yesterday by the Prime Minister of New Zealand Mr John Key during a visit to the UXO Lao Training Centre in Elay village, Naxaithong district, Vientiane.
Mr Key said New Zealand has a strong legacy of supporting UXO clearance around the world, including for the past 20 years in Laos, and this funding will make a real difference to the safety and economic prospects of the people there.
We are proud to stand alongside the people and government of Laos to continue this important work, he said.
The government of New Zealand has been a key partner to the Lao government and the UNDP since 2010, in the effort to reduce the impact of UXO in Xieng Khuang, considered the second most-contaminated province in the country.
Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Dr Khampheng Saysompheng acknowledged the impact of New Zealand’s support for UXO clearance in Xieng Khuang province since 2010.
More than 3,000 hectares of land have been cleared for safe use and important development projects. This has made a huge contribution to the socio-economic development of the province and the country, addressing poverty, reducing the number of casualties from UXO and reducing the risks to aff ected communities.
Casualties from UXO in Xieng Khuang have reduced significantly from 41 in 2010 to 11 in 2015, due to clearance and mine risk education supported by New Zealand among others.
UNDP Resident Representative Ms Kaarina Immonen stressed the importance of sustained support for UXO clearance and victim assistance, saying New Zealand has been a valued partner in this effort. The new contribution announced yesterday was comprehensive. It has been designed together with the government and in coordination with other donors. The grant is long-term, which enables UXO Lao to plan its work, with a focus on Xieng Khuang province.
Laos is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world, per capita, following the Indochina War. The dangerous UXO left behind as a tragic legacy of the war continues to be a threat to the lives of rural populations and a hindrance to the use of land for agriculture and development.
UNDP works closely with the Lao government to address the UXO problem. This engagement is through the national clearance operator UXO Lao and the National Regulatory Authority for UXO and Mine Action in the Lao PDR. The much needed funding boost from New Zealand to UXO Lao in Xieng Khuang province will support 12 UXO clearance teams, one mine risk education team, two UXO survey teams and the purchasing of essential equipment.
The contribution will also support the process of completing a national survey of known cluster munitions contamination by 2021, which has been planned by the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action with the support of UNDP.
This week, at a side event to the ASEAN Summits, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon inaugurated Laos’ own national Sustainable Development Goal 18 on UXO: Lives safe from UXO; remove the UXO obstacle to national development.
Source: Vientiane Times