The 19-year-old brother of a UXO (unexploded ordnance) accident survivor and former scrap collector has become the most recent addition to MAG Vietnam’s technical workforce after passing the demanding Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians Course.
Mr. Duong Van Duy on a medical training course with MAG Vietnam Medic Team Leader Ms Nguyen Thi Hien prior to his recruitment.
Duy refining his search techniques under controlled conditions in Dong Hoi City, Quang Binh Province.
[Photos: MAG Vietnam]
Scrap collecting is a relatively lucrative activity for those willing to risk their life harvesting some of the 800,000 tonnes of UXO (including unexploded bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars, grenades and more) estimated to be lodged in the country’s soil at the end of the war.
Collecting war scrap is an illegal trade but, as in other south-east Asian countries like Lao PDR and Cambodia, people do it as a way to survive and earn more money. Although potentially profitable, it’s also highly dangerous.
As the eldest child and the most responsible for supporting his family, 21-year-old Mr. Duong Cong Anh saw greater income potential in scrap collecting than farming.
However, Anh’s career was short-lived, as just a few months after first putting his metal detector to use he lost the fingertips of three fingers and a thumb to the first joint of his left hand.
Even after being released from hospital, Anh's recovery took a long time, and he had to move back home where he felt, in his own words, “like a useless guy”. His mother Mrs Tuong Thi Toan, 45, said he sometimes cried and was very depressed during this time.
"I also cried when I saw my son’s injuries," said Mrs. Toan. "He was born whole, but this accident disabled him."
"Since the accident we were all obsessed by UXO and I forbade my children to touch any strange things." she said, adding that MAG dealt with all the UXO in the village which enabled her to feel more confident in letting her children leave the house.
The accident forced Anh’s brother Mr. Duong Van Duy to leave school and join the family farming, until he was identified – in the absence of Anh, whose health was too poor – as a possible EOD Technician, as part of a partnership between MAG Vietnam and victim assistance agency Clear Path International (CPI) to actively recruit mine accident victims.
Following a two-week EOD Technicians Course in Dong Hoi City, Quang Binh Province, Duy was recruited to MAG Vietnam’s Mine Action Team No. 2 (MAT 2), funded by Adopt-a-Minefield, and is now helping support the family of six in Quang Tung Commune, Quang Trach District, Quanh Binh Province.
Duy told his MAG new colleagues that it was not only the economy of the family that was affected by the accident but also their minds.
"I felt very sorry for Anh but I could do nothing for him," he said. "But now I have the opportunity to work hard so that many UXO are located and destroyed."
"When I knew that I would be recruited by MAG, I was so happy. I was no longer unemployed. I will have a job, a good job, and I want to share my happiness with my brother."
When Duy was told he would be based in his home district of Quang Trach, he said his joy doubled.
"I am not only able to support my family but also my home town. I know there are still many items of UXO remaining in the district and people are very afraid of them and will not cultivate land."
The course was the first run by MAG which actively recruited victims. Regardless of their injuries and difficulties all participants studied hard, though only 12 of the 18 on the course managed to achieve the pass rate.
"I wish that MAG could give them all jobs so their difficulties could be shared," said MAG Technical Operations Coordinator Mr. Tran Xuan Thang, adding that Duy was the best student in the class:
"Though he was the youngest student, what he displayed during training often surprised the others and I have a stong belief that he will be a good addition to our 100-strong technical workforce."
MAG started its operations in the Quang Trach District on 22 January 2007 and has conducted mobile operations in nine out of 15 communes. Owing to these activities, medical centres, kindergartens, school and houses have been constructed on safe land.
4 November 08