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Laos

Laos flagLaos is the most bombed country in the world per capita, with more than 270 million cluster submunitions dropped on it during the Vietnam War from 1963 to 1974.

► See also: The UXO problem in Laos: statistics

► Visit us: MAG Visitor Information Centres in Laos

Mahaxi junior school children

A quarter of all villages in Laos are still contaminated by unexploded bombs, and children are often most at risk.

Photo: Sean Sutton/MAG

The problems

An estimated 80 million of the cluster submunitions – or ‘bombies’, as they're known in Laos – that were dropped on the country during the Vietnam War failed to detonate, remaining ‘live’ in the ground after the end of the war.

This footage of air-dropped cluster bombs releasing submunitions is courtesy of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Laos:

Between 1999 and 2008, there were 2,184 casualties (including 834 deaths) from incidents involving this unexploded ordnance (UXO). See more UXO statistics from Laos here

All 17 of the country’s provinces and around a quarter of all villages still suffer from UXO contamination. More than 90 per cent of people living in these areas live in fear of UXO. The most common worry is that children will be killed or injured whilst they are playing.

Terrifyingly, 80 per cent of people in affected areas are still using land that they know or suspect to be contaminated with deadly explosives.

The presence of UXO is also a major cause of poverty, preventing people from using land and denying access to basic services such as healthcare and education. Forty-one out of the 45 poorest districts in Laos are affected by UXO contamination.

As in neighbouring Cambodia and Vietnam, collecting scrap metal is a major cause of UXO accidents. Forced into the trade by poverty, people risk their lives using primitive detectors to hunt for scrap: normally what they find is harmless, but there’s always the risk it could be a deadly bomb.

[Map production and research by Jerry Redfern / Redcoates Studios]

Cluster submunitionsCluster bombs, or cluster munitions, are weapons that can be dropped from the air by planes or fired from the ground.

They open in mid-air and release numerous (sometimes hundreds) explosive bomblets - 'submunitions' - over a wide area.

Most of these bomblets explode immediately, but many don't, killing and maiming civilians long after a conflict has ended.
Cluster bombsCluster bombs, or cluster munitions, are weapons that can be dropped from the air by planes or fired from the ground.

They open in mid-air and release numerous (sometimes hundreds) explosive bomblets - 'submunitions' - over a wide area.

Most of these bomblets explode immediately, but many don't, killing and maiming civilians long after a conflict has ended.
Unexploded ordnanceExplosive weapons - such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades - that did not explode when they were used and still pose a risk of detonation.

How MAG is helping in Laos

MAG saves lives and builds futures by working with others to reclaim land contaminated with cluster bombs and UXO. We reduce the daily risk of death or injury for civilians, and create safe and secure conditions for development.

Working with local people, and national and local partners, we make sure our activities reach those most in need and has meaningful, long-term benefits. So, for example, 6.6 million metres² of land that MAG cleared in Laos from 2011 to 2013 is now being used for agriculture.

A partnership with World Vision in Khammouane province will see new schools and health centres built in 20 villages that MAG makes safe.

To maximise long-term benefits, our Community Liaison teams work with village authorities to select and train local volunteers to deliver Risk Education* messages to the most at-risk groups, particularly children and young men.

By assessing the impact our work has on communities, we can ensure that MAG is reaching the people it needs to, in the most effective ways. The most recent MAG Laos study revealed an increase in safety within UXO-affected communities, an increase in the amount of land safe for agricultural use, improved food security, and better economic opportunities. Read more about the study here

* Risk Education aims to prevent death and injury from cluster bombs and unexploded ordnance by raising awareness of the problems and promoting safer behaviour. Read more about Risk Education here

MAG's history in Laos

In 1994, MAG was the first international humanitarian mine action organisation to start operations in the country. Since then, MAG’s work has made it safe for hundreds of thousands of people to farm, grow food, build homes and walk to school.

Over the past ten years alone, MAG has returned nearly 44 million m² of land made safe free from unexploded cluster munitions to communities and destroyed nearly 181,000 explosive remnants of war. This work has benefited more than half a million Lao people.

Cluster bombsCluster bombs, or cluster munitions, are weapons that can be dropped from the air by planes or fired from the ground.

They open in mid-air and release numerous (sometimes hundreds) explosive bomblets - 'submunitions' - over a wide area.

Most of these bomblets explode immediately, but many don't, killing and maiming civilians long after a conflict has ended.
Risk EducationRisk Education (or Mine Risk Education) refers to activities that seek to reduce the risk of death and injury from landmines and other explosive weapons, and lessen their social and economic impact.

Risk Education includes the provision of safety messages to at-risk individuals and communities, raising awareness of the dangers and promoting safe behaviour.
Unexploded ordnanceExplosive weapons - such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades - that did not explode when they were used and still pose a risk of detonation.Cluster munitionsCluster bombs, or cluster munitions, are weapons that can be dropped from the air by planes or fired from the ground.

They open in mid-air and release numerous (sometimes hundreds) explosive bomblets - 'submunitions' - over a wide area.

Most of these bomblets explode immediately, but many don't, killing and maiming civilians long after a conflict has ended.

Duong Siven, rice farmer in Laos

If MAG had not cleared this land, I would still be poor and hungry. I only had a tiny plot I could use. Now the land is safe, and life is better. Now I can grow two crops of rice a year.

– Doung Siven, rice farmer in Laos

How MAG works in Laos

We use an approach we’ve called MAG’s Integrated Clearance Methodology, to ensure the right tools are being applied for the best results, and it includes:

Manual clearance: Teams of clearance technicians removing and destroying dangerous items from known contaminated areas.

Machinery: MAG is the first operator in Laos to deploy permanent mechanical assets within its operations. These are used for ground preparation and deep search for large bombs.

Mapping: MAG is developing a new system in Laos called Evidence Point Polygon (EPP) mapping. By electronically plotting GPS locations from historical Explosive Ordnance Disposal roving tasks, the system can produce Hazardous Area reports based on known evidence points without the need for survey assets on the ground.

Survey: Technical Survey of cluster munition strike sites, known as CMRS, is being introduced as part the national survey standard in Laos to assist in decision-making around land release. MAG has taken an active role in helping to develop the processes and operational procedures for CMRS.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal'Explosive Ordnance Disposal' (EOD) is the safe removal and controlled destruction of unexploded ordnance.

'Unexploded ordnance' refers to explosive weapons - such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades - that did not explode when they were used and still pose a risk of detonation.

Video: Surviving the Peace

Surviving the Peace: Laos follows the devastation of a family whose lives were tragically altered by unexploded ordnance:

► Watch the full film here: Surviving the Peace: Laos

Unexploded ordnanceExplosive weapons - such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades - that did not explode when they were used and still pose a risk of detonation.

Other countries

Africa

AngolaBurundiChadDemocratic Republic of CongoLibyaMaliSomaliaSouth Sudan

Asia

CambodiaPhilippinesSri LankaVietnam

Central America

Honduras

Middle East

IraqLebanon

Page updated: 10 November 2014

Our impact here in 2013

• Land cleared: 1.68 million m²

Cluster munitions removed & destroyed: 5,422

Unexploded ordnance removed & destroyed: 1,585

Explosive Ordnance Disposal spot tasks: 1,374

• Men, women and children we helped directly: 22,720

MAG in Laos

Programme began: 1994

Our main activities:
Cluster munition clearance
Explosive Ordnance Disposal
Risk Education
Survey

Our work supports:
Agriculture
Education infrastructure
Health infrastructure

About Laos

• Population: 6.6 million

• Life expectancy: 67 years

• Gross National Income per capita: US $1,260

• People with access to safe drinking water: 67%

• People below the poverty line: 28%

Figures: CIA, UNDP, UN Water, World Bank

Cluster munitionsCluster bombs, or cluster munitions, are weapons that can be dropped from the air by planes or fired from the ground.

They open in mid-air and release numerous (sometimes hundreds) explosive bomblets - 'submunitions' - over a wide area.

Most of these bomblets explode immediately, but many don't, killing and maiming civilians long after a conflict has ended.
Unexploded ordnanceExplosive weapons - such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades - that did not explode when they were used and still pose a risk of detonation.Explosive Ordnance Disposal'Explosive Ordnance Disposal' (EOD) is the safe removal and controlled destruction of unexploded ordnance.

'Unexploded ordnance' refers to explosive weapons - such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades - that did not explode when they were used and still pose a risk of detonation.
Risk EducationRisk Education (or Mine Risk Education) refers to activities that seek to reduce the risk of death and injury from landmines and other explosive weapons, and lessen their social and economic impact.

Risk Education includes the provision of safety messages to at-risk individuals and communities, raising awareness of the dangers and promoting safe behaviour.

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"Terrifyingly, 80 per cent of people in affected areas are still using land that they know or suspect to be contaminated with deadly explosives." Read more...