Source: Vientiane Times
Seven people have been injured in UXO-related accidents so far this year, according to a report from the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for UXO/Mine Action in the Lao PDR.
Delivering a report on the subject, NRA Deputy Director Mr Bounpheng Sisawath said that from January 1 to July 19 there had been three UXO-related accidents in which seven people sustained injuries but no deaths had been reported.
Explosions typically occur during the transport, dismantling or burning of UXO, or while villagers are working in their fields.
This year the NRA has worked with international organisations to clear UXO from 1,966 hectares of land including 1,554 hectares of agricultural land and 412 hectares of land needed for development purposes.
Some 60,960 cluster munitions were cleared in addition to 68 larger bombs, as well as 50,040 bombies, 13 mines, and 10,839 other items.
Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history. Over 50,000 people have been injured or killed since 1964 in UXO-related incidents, mostly involving cluster munitions.
About 30,000 of these casualties occurred during the second Indochina War up until 1973. The other 20,000 casualties occurred in the post-conflict era from 1973 to 2012, with 99 new casualties being recorded in 2012. In the last decade 40 percent of all casualties have been children.
From January 1, 1996 to July 2015, the NRA worked with international organisations to clear UXO on 59,816 hectares of land including 39,795 hectares of agricultural land and 20,021 hectares of land required for development.
Some 1,782,682 cluster munitions were cleared in addition to 7,529 larger bombs, 831,915 bombies, 7,154 mines, and 936,074 other devices.
The presence of unexploded ordnance slows development, in the fields of agriculture, forestry, mining, tourism, hydro-electric power, transportation, education and health.
UXO was partly responsible for preventing Laos from achieving the MDGs in 2015. It helps to perpetuate poverty because it prevents people from making full use of agricultural land.
The NRA has 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 victims from 2016-2020.
Risk education activities have been conducted in nine provinces and the number of casualties has steadily fallen from 119 in 2010 to 45 people in 2014.
In addition, UXO risk education will be included in the school curriculum, especially in primary and secondary schools.
Medical rehabilitation and work opportunities will be provided to UXO survivors, targeting 1,500 people by 2020.