Above, a MAG technician works to clear a Dangerous Area just metres from a house in Tuyên Hóa District, near the border with Lao in Quang Binh province.
It is estimated that each square metre of land in the province was exposed to, on average, 29kg of ordnance1 during the Vietnam War. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) still poses a significant threat to the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Vietnamese to this day.
• 9,886 Dangerous Areas searched and cleared
• 1,156 emergency tasks
• 154,286m2 of land cleared for development purposes
• 343,677 beneficiaries
• 14,927 items of unexploded ordnance removed and destroyed
Despite working as a Desk Officer for MAG for 12 months, it was only when I visited Vietnam in late 2011 that I realised how close people live to the UXO left over from a conflict which ended almost four decades ago.
In the communities I visited, Dangerous Areas (spots where UXO are known to be buried) are often less than 100 metres from homes.
UXO lies in gardens, restricting the amount of their own land people can use for farming and other livelihood activities, and posing a serious threat to their children.
Vietnamese authorities report that as much as 20 per cent of the country’s landscape is contaminated with Explosive Remnants of War and it is predicted that exposure to UXO will increase as Vietnam continues to undergo rapid development.
A MAG Vietnam technician searches land.
[Photo: Aidan Dockery/MAG]
Despite this economic growth – and success in achieving Millennium Development Goals – in Vietnam, many areas remain remote, rural and poor. Poverty is concentrated among ethnic minorities who live in remote mountainous areas3.
Mountainous areas, like along the border, were also some of the most heavily bombed places during the war. UXO impacts people’s access to already limited land for farming, and fear of accidents is compounded by the fact that the death or injury of the breadwinner in poor communities could have grave consequences.
This fear is justified: there have been around 6,000 accidents in Quang Binh province alone since the end of the war4.
MAG deploys teams to clear Dangerous Areas identified by communities on their own land in three provinces.
The proximity of lethal UXO was seen when MAG teams
uncovered two mortars within 10 metres of a family’s home.
[This and top photo: Chris Elliott/MAG]
MAG teams also perform emergency response tasks on UXO found by communities on an ad hoc basis, and also clears larger areas for specific development purposes such as schools and roads.
Between January and November 2011, MAG searched and cleared 9,886 Dangerous Areas, responded to 1,156 emergency tasks, and cleared 154,286 square metres of land in order to facilitate social and economic development activities.
This work has benefited benefited 343,677 people, with MAG removing and destroying 14,927 items of UXO and six landmines.
• Reporting by Chris Elliott, Desk Officer, MAG
1 Vietnam UXO and Landmine Impact Assessment Report, BOMICEN, 2009, page 34
2 Landmine Monitor Report 2009, page 1,144
4 Vietnam UXO and Landmine Impact Assessment Report, BOMICEN, 2009, page 35
Our thanks to the following donors to MAG’s Vietnam operations: Irish Aid; NVESD; UK Department for International Development (DFID) / UKaid; US Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.
24 January 2012