Laos to boost clearance capacity of unexploded bombs

VIENTIANE (Xinhua): Laos will continue to work with all development partners including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to improve the quality of life of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) victims.

This was the message at a meeting led by Catherine Phuong, a representative of the UNDP, and Acting Chief of the Political Economic Section at the US Embassy Brian Jungwiwattanaporn, according to local daily Vientiane Times report on Wednesday (June 30).

Lao Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Padeumphone Sonthany, told a meeting of the Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Sector Working Group on Friday that Laos will work with development partners and NGOs to build longer-term clearance capacity within humanitarian teams and fulfil the "live safe from UXO" goal, which is Laos' own Sustainable Development Goal.

Although UXO clearance activities have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the UXO sector has taken this opportunity to work remotely and ensure the continuity of work by focusing on assessments and drafting the UXO National Strategic Plan "Safe Path Forward III" for 2021-2030.

"This new 10-year strategy for the UXO sector is a crucial step towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of UXO work in Laos," Phuong said.

The new strategy will also help Laos implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), especially SDG 18 on mine action, and increase the contribution of the UXO sector to overall socio-economic development.

Setting priorities for UXO survey and clearance is also crucial as a basis for determining UXO work in districts and provinces in accordance with local socio-economic development needs.

The meeting also reflected on the achievements of the UXO sector over the past 10 years, particularly alignment with the strategic objectives of the national UXO strategy such as the Safe Path Forward II (2011-2020) as a part of the development process.

Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world per capita. Throughout 1964-1973, over 2 million tons of ordnance were dropped on Laos, of which 30 per cent failed to explode.

Over 270 million cluster munitions were dropped from US aircraft, leaving an estimated 80 million live bomblets scattered and buried around the country.

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