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Laos

Laos 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.

Mahaxi junior school children, Laos

Photo: Sean Sutton/MAG

Come to the MAG Visitor Information Centres in Laos

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.

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

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.

► See also: The UXO problem in Laos: statistics

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.
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.

Our work here in 2013

deminer icon

Land cleared: 1.68 million m²

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Cluster munitions removed & destroyed: 5,422

UXO icon

Unexploded ordnance removed & destroyed: 1,585

Explosion icon

Explosive Ordnance Disposal spot tasks: 1,374

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

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.

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

Videos: The cluster bomb problem in Laos

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



During the Vietnam War, 580,000 US bombing missions were conducted over Laos...

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

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.

Videos: How MAG is helping in Laos

A white phosphorus bomb is found in a rice field. What happens next?

 



Explosive weapons – a legacy of the Vietnam War – still threaten civilians in every province in Laos. And children are often most at risk...

 



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.

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Laos flagAbout 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

"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...

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