Monday, September 30, 2013

UXO: New reports show progress, but new victims, in Laos

Legacies of War executive director Channapha Khamvongsa issued a new message recently regarding progress but continued tragedies in Laos. According to Khamvongsa:
Three new reports issued by the U.S. Department of State, Lao PDR's National Regulatory Authority, and the Cluster Munition Coalition highlights the progress of the UXO sector in Laos. These reports include data on the decline in casualties, down from 300 in 2008 to less than 60 in 2012. One report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, charts funding received by ten countries over the last 20 years. Of the $62 million directed by the U.S. to Laos since 1993, one-third, or $20 million, was committed during the last three years (2010-2012) as a direct result of Legacies' education and advocacy. The increase in funding helped to enhance the capacity of various organizations working in Laos to clear bombs, support victims, and provide risk education. You can read more below, with links to the full reports.

Despite the declining numbers of victims in Laos over the past several years, one accident can change the lives of so many. At the beginning of this school year in Laos, tragedy struck the Chomphet District, just outside of Luang Prabang Province. Khe (13 years old) and five other boys, Ming (10), Mee (6), Bounngou (5), Lo (12), and Chantee (12) were out looking for bamboo shoots in the nearby woods when they spotted and picked up a bombie. They tossed it amongst themselves, and tried to cut it open in order to see what was inside. The bombie exploded, instantly killing Khe and seriously injuring two other boys in the stomach. The rest of them sustained shrapnel wounds to their legs and feet, and ringing in their ears. Local authorities and various NGOs, including World Education, are providing victim assistance, support, and recovery.
Khamvongsa highlighted 3 keys reports: "To Walk the Earth in Safety," from the US Department of State. This year marks the 20th anniversary since the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement began funding around the world. The report provides a summary of its annual funding over the last two decades.

Also of interest was the report "UXO Sector Annual Report 2012." The most outstanding achievement and remarkable progress in the UXO sector in Laos was a dramatic drop in the number of UXO casualties, from more than 300 per year in 2008 to 56 in 2012.

And finally, the Cluster Munition Monitor Report 2012 was issued, noting that as the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world, support for mine action continues with the U.S. increasing funding to Laos from $5 million in 2011 to $9 million in 2012. Lao PDR continues to play a leadership role in the work of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and became coordinator of the Committee on Clearance and Risk Reduction Education.

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