During the Second Indochina War (1964 to 1973) Laos was subject to heavy aerial bombardment, resulting in the world’s largest contamination from unexploded submunitions.

It is estimated that over 2 million tons of bombs were dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, while at the same time anti-personnel and anti-tank mines were laid along the country’s borders and around military bases and airfields.

Over 25% of all villages in Laos still remain contaminated, mainly with UXO.

Agricultural activities provide employment for over 80% of the country’s population and remain crucial to poverty reduction in Lao PDR. However, UXO contamination poses a serious obstacle to agricultural improvement and development, with cluster munitions preventing access to agricultural land. As demand and pressure for fertile land increase, villagers take risks every day in cultivating areas affected by UXO, and so accidents and injuries continue to occur.

The UXO problem in Laos will be solved through accurate survey (both non technical and technical), the resultant correct evidence based clearance prioritisation and, most importantly, the implementation of large scale clearance.

Our survey, EOD and UXO clearance programmes will initially focus on two eastern districts in Savannakhet Province. These two districts are amongst the poorest and they also suffer some of the highest UXO accident rates.

Regionally HALO has over 1,000 local staff in both Sri Lanka and Cambodia and almost 4,000 in Afghanistan conducting such clearance operations. The Government of Laos requires this scale of clearance if Millennium Development Goal 9 (reduce the impact of UXO) is to be met.

The Government of Lao PDR aims to have cleared 200,000 hectares of contaminated priority land by 2020, but increasing clearance capacities and efficiencies is crucial to achieving this goal.

There is a clear requirement for increased clearance to ensure that the number of casualties is reduced and high value agricultural land is cleared in a shorter timeframe.