More than 40 years after the end of the Second Indochina War, people in Laos continue to live in danger from unexploded ordnance (UXO). These deadly items threaten their lives and hinder development. This is unacceptable.
► See also: The UXO problem in Laos: statistics
► Visit us: MAG Visitor Information Centres in Laos
Photo: Sean Sutton/MAG
Quick links: The problems • How MAG is helping in Laos • How MAG works in Laos • Find out more about Laos • Our partners in Laos • Other countries MAG works in • Get MAG email updates (or scroll down for more)
Laos has the unenviable title of being the most bombed country in the world per capita, with an estimated 80 million cluster munitions and items of UXO remaining live in the ground at the end of the conflict.
All 17 of Laos’ provinces, and around a quarter of all villages, are still contaminated by these deadly items, and more than 90 per cent of people in these areas live in fear from them
The link between contamination and poverty is striking: 41 out of the 45 poorest districts in Laos are those most affected by the contamination. People cannot use their land productively and are denied access to essential services.
In affected areas, 80 per cent of people use land that they know or suspect to be contaminated with UXO despite the dangers. They have no choice but to try and make a living from this land to support their families.
Working across Xieng Khouang and Khammouane provinces since 1994, MAG has helped millions of people in Laos live safer lives, free from danger.
From 2004 onwards, our teams have cleared more than 50,000,000 square metres of land, so people can rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Alongside the deployment of manual clearance teams, MAG implements innovative methodologies and technology, to ensure we deliver the best results and value for money.
MAG was the first organisation in Laos to permanently deploy mechanical assets to improve efficiency by clearing vegetation, preparing ground and assisting with excavations of large aircraft-dropped bombs.
Another recent innovation introduced by MAG is Evidence Point Polygon mapping. Here, historical operational data is analysed and used to identify and map areas contaminated by UXO without the need to deploy survey teams. This speeds up the survey and clearance process, releasing safe land to those who need it the most.
In addition to land release activities, MAG delivers risk education to the people most likely to be involved in accidents, such as children or scrap metal collectors. Risk education helps communities live as safely as possible in contaminated areas until the land can be cleared permanently. In 2015, MAG will deliver a Train-the-Teacher programme that will equip teachers to deliver these life-saving messages to their pupils.
In 2013, MAG conducted a study to investigate the impact of its work in Laos. It found that clearance led to a distinct improvement in welfare and economic status; that crop yields increased, leading to improved food security; and that, above all, people felt safer. These results reflect how MAG is making a sustainable difference 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
This footage of air-dropped cluster bombs releasing submunitions is courtesy of the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Laos.
MAG's work in Laos is supported by:
• The Freeman Foundation
Page updated: 16 November 2015