Laos is the ‘most bombed country’ in the world per capita, as a result of heavy aerial attacks in the 60s and 70s during the Vietnam War. Although Laos People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) is committed to removing the bombs, the scale of the problem continues to put lives at risk.
Around 20,000 people—40 per cent of them children—have been killed or injured by cluster bombs or other unexploded items in Laos since the war ended. Soy, aged six, was playing with her friends when they discovered a cluster bomb. Not knowing how dangerous it was, they started to play with it. Moments later it exploded, killing one of her friends.
Our work is focused in Savannaket Province, where 70 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. Most families are almost entirely dependent on growing rice, but unexploded bombs make cultivating rice potentially life threatening. Since 2012, we have destroyed over 50,000 explosives and taught communities how to recognise and report dangerous items, so families no longer need to choose between taking risks or going hungry.
By creating jobs for local people, HALO also offers new opportunities. Last year three of our senior operations staff, Phouvanh, Ackhala Sinouvong and Minthada Thepvongsa, travelled to Abkhazia for a specialist training course. They learnt how to safely destroy air dropped bombs that threaten villages in rural Laos.
Supervisor Phouvanh, HALO Laos