Recently a report on unexploded cluster bombs in Laos was featured on CNN won the first-ever CNN iReport Community Choice Award. This is great news to many because it is helping to raise awareness and attention on this lingering issue, 36 years since the end of the war.
30% of Laos continues to remain cluttered with cluster bombs dropped during the war for Laos by US airplanes. 3 out of 10 victims are under the age of 12 today. An estimated 80 million munitions still remain.
Between 1964 and 1973, US aircraft secretly flew 580,000 missions and dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos. These included 277 million cluster bomblets with a typical failure rate estimated at 30 per cent. The presence of these bombs severely hampers Lao development as many risk being killed or maimed farming or even simply going to school.
A new report published jointly by UXO Lao and the Lao National Regulatory Authority (NRA) surveyed 94% of Lao households and concluded that an estimated 20,000 people had died from UXO since the conflict ended.
Officials estimate clearance could be sped dramatically with an investment of $40 to $50 million a year over the next ten years to clear bombs in Laos in accordance with the Convention on Cluster Munitions.In 2008, the value of international aid to UXO removal in Laos was US$19 million. In 2010, the figure reached about US$20 million.
A US Senate committee recommended committing $7 million for UXO clearance in Laos in 2011. The US Congress allocated about $5 million and the US State Department $1.9 million for UXO clearance in Laos in 2010.
But clearly, more needs to be done and raised. Statistically speaking, with 200,000+ Lao in the US, monthly support of $16 from everyone for just ten years would raise the $400 million Laos needs.
Or, basically, 4 summer Hollywood blockbusters or, alternately, 400 cruise missiles.