Clearance of cluster munitions and risk education | Project duration: 2008 – 2019
The air force of the USA flew 580 000 bombing missions over neutral Laos between 1964 and 1973. They dropped cluster bombs containing 270 million units of cluster munition to interrupt supplies to the Vietcong in South Vietnam. That equates to a truckload every 8 minutes for nine years – more bombs than were dropped on Germany and Japan together during the Second World War.
An estimated one third did not explode, around 35% of the country is contaminated. So far, they have claimed the lives of more than 50 000 people and severely impeded economic development.
WWM began working in the Laotian province of Khammouane, a particularly affected area, in 2008. We work together with UXO Lao, the largest national player for mine action, to clear cluster munition and sensitise the population.
Example: Help for Onn Sa
61-year-old rice farmer Onn Sa beams at the end of the 8-day operation. 27 units of cluster munition and 16 grenades were found on her land and defused. After years of fear, she can at last till her rice fields once again without risk.
She knew her land hid explosive remnants of war, but her family of six survives on rice cultivation. Like thousands of other farmers in Laos, Onn Sa simply had no choice. Prior to the clearance that was financed by WWM, she risked her life every day tilling her land. Onn Sa will never forget her horror when her granddaughter brought a bomb home one day. They were both lucky that it did not explode. But the moment had come for Onn Sa to take action. The village leader contacted UXO Lao.
What we achieved
Onn Sa's example shows not only how important it is to sensitise the population, but also that the aid provided by WWM reaches the people for whom it is intended. It creates safety family by family, village by village.
1 807 explosive remnants of war, including 795 bombies, have been identified and disposed of.
651 000 square metre of agricultural land were cleared (by the WWM team) and can be used for agriculture again.
167 individuals can safely use the released land again. 30 364 people, half of them children, have been sensitised for the mine problem and have learned how to deal more adequately with the risk.
Pictures: UXO Lao