US pledges $90m for cluster bomb clearance in Laos

THORNHILL, SCOTLAND - Mine clearance charity says Obama’s announcement is ‘momentous’ and will have a ‘profound effect’ on the south east Asian country.

The HALO Trust, the world’s largest mine clearance charity, welcomes today’s announcement from President Obama that the United States of America will contribute $90 million towards the clearance of unexploded cluster bombs and ammunition in Laos.

The announcement came on the first day of Obama’s historic visit to the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world.

Over 2 million tonnes of munitions were dropped on Laos during the second Indochina War. Many failed to detonate and remain scattered across the countryside, threatening lives and hindering agricultural and infrastructure development. More than 25,000 people have fallen victim to unexploded ordnance since the war ended in 1973.

James Cowan, CEO of the HALO Trust said:

Today’s announcement from President Obama will have a profound effect on the people of Laos. It will help them live and farm in safety on their land, as well as creating opportunities for development and infrastructure. Explosive remnants of war have blighted their lives for far too long. This generous and urgently needed funding will allow HALO and other humanitarian clearance organisations to get to grips with the problem. It is a momentous step in Laos’s journey towards freedom from the deadly debris of war.

The HALO Trust has been funded by the US Government and Department of State’s Office of Weapon Removal and Abatement to operate in Laos since 2012.

During the last four years HALO has cleared over 3,000,000m2 of land, destroyed 25,000 explosive devices and helped 8000 local people live safely. We currently operate in Savannakhet Province, one of the most contaminated and impoverished areas of Laos, which accounts for almost 30% of the country's total accident rate. HALO employs 250 people from the local communities in which we survey and clear cluster munitions and other unexploded ordnance.

For interviews with James Cowan, CEO of the HALO Trust in Scotland, please contact paul.mccann@halotrust.org or louise.vaughan@halotrust.org or phone 0044 1848 331 100

For images of HALO deminers in Laos please email sarah.cochrane@halotrust.org

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