Some 40 people have been injured and six fatalities recorded in UXO-related accidents so far this year, according to a report from the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for UXO/Mine Action in Laos.
The information was contained in a report presented at the UXO Working Group Meeting 2016 in Vientiane on Wednesday which was attended by Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, US Ambassador to Laos, Ms Rena Bitter, UNDP Resident Representative Ms Kaarina Immonen, NRA Director General Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun, and other officials.
According to the NRA report, so far this year there have been 24 UXO-related accidents in which 40 people sustained injuries and six deaths had been reported (according to monthly progress data for the first nine months of the year).
Explosions typically occur during the transport, dismantling or burning of UXO, or while villagers are working in their fields.
In the first nine months of 2016, a total of 3,255 hectares of land was cleared. This included 2,214 hectares of agricultural land and 1,011 of development land. In the same period, more than 86,000 UXO items were destroyed, of which more than 70,000 were bombies.
Non-technical surveys were completed in 735 villages in 2016 representing 92 percent of the planned annual target within the sector’s five year plan. Technical surveys covered 12,993 hectares, establishing 8,138 hectares of Confirmed Hazardous Area. There are now a total of 29,103 hectares of Confirmed Hazardous Area.
The NRA has also set a target to reduce the number of UXO casualties to less than 40 a year and to provide assistance to at least 1,500 UXO victims from 2016-2020.
Risk education activities have been conducted in nine provinces across the country. As a result, the number of UXO casualties has steadily reduced from 119 in 2010 to 45 people in 2014.
In addition, UXO risk education will be included in the education curriculum, especially in primary and secondary schools.
Medical rehabilitation and work opportunities will be provided to UXO survivors, targeting 1,500 people by 2020.
One of the major challenges for the government is sourcing funding for clearance operations. NRA must continue to mobilise funds because the budget allocated to victim assistance is very limited at present.
However, during the ASEAN Summits in September the UXO sector announced contributions from the United States of US$90 million and US$7.2 million from New Zealand for clearance efforts and to assist UXO victims.
During the Indochina War from 1964-73 about three million tonnes of UXO were dropped on Lao territory, including about 270 million sub-munitions from cluster bombs and about four million aircraft bombs. Tests in the United States have found that these types of cluster munitions can have a failure rate of up to 30 percent. This means that land remains contaminated in Laos. The provinces in which contamination can be found constitute a total of 87 thousand square kilometres of the country’s land.
Source: Vientiane Times