NPA assists in Laos after Typhoon Ketsana

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NPA is contributing in the efforts to assist thousands of Lao farmers to resettle after more than 9,600 households were displaced when Typhoon Ketsana hit the country in September.

Many farmers faced great uncertainly where to rebuild their villages and start a new life as large parts of the region is heavily contaminated with bombs and other ordnance originating from the last Indochina war.

NPA were in the process of establishing a cluster munition clearance programme in Lao PDR when the typhoon hit, and were asked by the Authorities to assist with the resettlement of the population in the affected areas.

NPA has field bases in the Saravane and the Sekong Provinces and response plans were made together with the emergency committees there.

In Laos, NPAs field of expertise is the surveying and clearance of areas affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO), such as large air-craft bombs weighing up to several thousands of pounds or smaller sometimes almost unidentifiable cluster bombs that have been dropped in numbers of thousands over both small and large areas.

On Thursday 3rd December NPA's Saravane Field Base received its list of tasks from the Saravane Province Ketsana Emergency Committee. Ongoing clearance task were suspended for the time being and already the very next day we left the main field base for the emergency areas.

By the end of the first week in the field NPA technicians had already cleared areas designated for schools, a multi village medical clinic and regional meeting house.

In addition to NPA, the Laos' national UXO clearance organization, UXO Lao, also rapidly redirected their clearance assets. Despite their current situation, the inhabitants of the villages massed in force and contributed greatly to cut and remove the dense vegetation that covered the resettlement areas, allowing NPAs clearance asset to concentrate their effort on clearance of land and allowing us to move more rapidly. The UN, through their different organizations and co-partners started ferrying large amounts of much needed supplies out to the emergency areas.

Construction started more or less immediately after NPA had cleared and released the land to the Village Chief. Representatives from the local Province and District authorities coordinated the efforts in an attempt to ensure efficiency and that the most affected villages were prioritized.

NPA will continue to contribute with their expertise to the Ketsana Emergency Response Committee early 2010.