United States Provides Over USD 24 Million for UXO Clearance in Laos

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(Photo: US Embassy)

The Government of the United States of America (US) has pledged a total of USD 24.2 million to the HALO Trust, a leading Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) clearance organization, to continue its operations in Savannakhet Province, Laos, until April 2025. 

“[…] We partner closely with the Lao government on these programs, and we share Laos’ goal of ensuring that by 2030 UXO does not limit Laos’ development,” said Heather Variava, US Ambassador to Laos.

UXO contamination remains a significant challenge in Laos, given its status as the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. Between 1964 and 1973, known as the Secret War (often known as the American War among the Lao community), the United States dropped over 580,000 bombing missions in Laos, resulting in more than 2.5 million tons of ordnance. This amounted to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine consecutive years, according to Legacies of War

Specifically, during the war, more than 270 million cluster bombs were deployed, with approximately 80 million failing to explode, posing risks to livelihoods, socio-economic development, and quality of life.

In commitment to address the issue, the newly allocated funds from the US will enable the HALO Trust to deploy 80 UXO clearance teams monthly, covering over 25 million square meters of UXO-contaminated land.

The funds will also allow six UXO survey teams to survey at least 11 million square meters of potentially contaminated land, with three risk-education teams conducting over 1,500 meetings with residents to raise awareness about the dangers of UXO.

The funding, announced on 5 March, comes as part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the HALO Trust and the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented by the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector (NRA).

This latest contribution from the United States reaffirms the country’s commitment to supporting UXO clearance efforts in the region, building upon previous grants totaling USD 39.7 million.

Since the inception of its operations in 2012, the HALO Trust has cleared over 35 million square meters of contaminated land and disposed of more than 110,000 items of UXO in Savannakhet Province alone.

Ambassador Variava praised the success of past initiatives, noting that the additional funding would enable the HALO Trust to clear more land than ever before.

According to the Ambassador, the United States has invested over USD 355 million in UXO survey and clearance activities, risk education, survivor assistance, and capacity development in Laos since 1995, reflecting its commitment to reducing the impacts of unexploded cluster munitions.

To further tackle the ongoing threats, continuous efforts from countries like South Korea, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Russia, along with organizations like HALO Trust and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), among others, have been crucial in ensuring the safety of communities affected by UXO contamination.

This month only, the Government of South Korea donated equipment worth over USD 1 million to support 13 new humanitarian demining teams in UXO clearance efforts until 2026. 

The United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has recently also pledged over USD 1.65 million to MAG for UXO survey, clearance, and risk education in Khammouane Province.

Additionally, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is continuously working with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to strengthen national capacities to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 18, particularly the “Lives Safe from UXO” initiative.

Lastly, Japan provided USD 5 million in grant aid to speed up UXO clearance efforts in Laos in 2022, supporting Laos’ 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan. Japan has a long history of supporting UXO clearance in Laos, totaling over USD 66 million over two decades.