Targeted clearance helps to reduce poverty
A new project has been launched in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – the world’s most heavily bombed country per capita – aimed at ensuring those communities with the greatest need of unexploded ordnance clearance receive it first.
More than 270 million cluster submunitions were dropped on Lao PDR during the Second Indochina War. Despite nearly two decades of clearance efforts, less than one per cent of these submunitions have been removed1, and more than 25 per cent of villages remain contaminated.
An average of 300 people are killed each year in the country as a result of cluster munitions – that’s half the annual global total2.
On top of causing this tragic loss of life, unexploded ordnance (UXO) prevents land being used for agriculture and animal husbandry.
This has grave consequences in rural areas, where there are very high chronic malnutrition rates: every second child under the age of five in rural Lao PDR is chronically malnourished and every fifth rural child is severely stunted3.
In response, the new ‘District Focused Approach’ aims to identify where land can be cleared for the maximum benefit of these communities.
Under the project, which began in April 2011, the Lao Government’s National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector (NRA) is working in partnership with MAG, two other non-governmental organisations (Handicap International and Norwegian People’s Aid) and local government authorities, to survey households and villages about UXO contamination and their planned use of land.
This data is then analysed, along with Government and NGO development plans, to enable accurate identification of UXO clearance priorities.
“By identifying evidence of UXO contamination, the survey provides a clear start point for clearance operations to begin,” said Gregory Cathcart, MAG Lao PDR Community Liaison Manager. “By linking that information to village land use planning, UXO clearance can be directed to the land that is in highest need for clearance first.”
The District Focused Approach pilot phase is currently running in Boulapha District – one of the most heavily contaminated districts in Khammouane Province – and is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. After this, it is hoped it will be extended to 46 districts.
The project will support the Lao Government to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, as well as its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for poverty eradication.
Funded by the European Union, MAG is supporting the NRA in implementing the District Focused Approach through the provision of nine DFA survey teams and one Explosive Ordnance Disposal roving team, as well as providing technical support to the NRA Research Unit, which is coordinating the project.