United States Grants USD 8.5 million for UXO Operations in Northern Laos

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MAG Technicians working in Xieng Khouang province(Photo: MAG/Bart Verweij)

The United States has granted 12 months of additional funding totaling USD 8.5 million to MAG in order to continue the implementation of UXO clearance, survey, and explosive ordnance risk education across Xieng Khouang Province.

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination within Laos continues to pose a major humanitarian threat, especially for vulnerable communities living in rural villages and towns.

Mines Advisory Group’s (MAG’s) work clearing land and providing explosive ordnance risk education reduces the number of UXO accidents, provides safe land for agricultural activities and infrastructure development, and contributes to the overall socio-economic development of Lao PDR.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was approved by Laos’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and formally signed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare’s National Regulatory Authority for the UXO Sector (NRA) and MAG in May 2022; with a ceremony to announce the additional funding held in Vientiane on 25 July.

MAG Community Liaison Officer marking an item of UXO reported by the community.

Funding from the United States Government to support UXO survey and clearance in Lao PDR has once again increased in 2022, with contributions to the sector higher than the total funding awarded in 2021.

“The continued support from the United States will enable MAG to clear a significant amount of priority land in Xieng Khouang province, in support of vulnerable rural communities. This vital work saves lives and builds safer futures for people living in areas contaminated by UXO. Clearance of land improves people’s livelihoods, allowing them to plough their land without fear, build vital community infrastructure such as roads and health centres, and send their children to school without the fear of finding UXO in the playground.” Ms. Letven, MAG Lao PDR Country Director said.

Across nearly three decades of work in Laos, MAG has cleared over 101 million square meters of land in Lao PDR, removing and destroying more than 315,000 items of UXO and directly benefitting 1,165,000 men, women and children.

A BLU 26 cluster submunition reported by a resident of Hai village, Xieng Khouang province.

With the additional USD 8.5 million funding contribution from the United States, MAG will clear a further 10km (1,000 hectares) of priority contaminated areas, survey a further 86km of land across Xieng Khouang province, and deliver over 280 explosive ordnance risk education sessions to impacted communities.

Over 10,000 people are expected to directly benefit from these activities. The funding will also support four roving teams tasked to destroy items of UXO reported by people in the community.

The Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Ms. Joy M. Sakurai, said: “Over the years, more land has been cleared in Xieng Khouang province than in any other province in the Lao PDR, and in 2022, U.S.-funded MAG teams will clear even more land in this province than ever before.”

Clearance of cluster munitions and other UXO is critical to improving the lives and livelihoods of people living in Laos. This US-funded clearance and survey work conducted by MAG will benefit those living in areas with the highest amount of contamination and most at-risk, and will allow Lao people to use their land without fear of injury or death from UXO.