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Clearing Landmines In Vietnam

The United States Department of State provided Vietnam with nearly one-million dollars worth of technically advanced equipment to clear unexploded ordnance and landmines in December 2006. The equipment includes mine detectors, bomb locaters, and personal protective equipment. Since 2000, Vietnam has received more than thirty-seven million dollars in U.S. assistance for de-mining, mine risk education, survivors assistance, and an ongoing landmine impact survey.

Vietnam has a serious landmine problem resulting from conflicts between 1945 and 1991, including the French-Indochina War and the Vietnam War. It is estimated that between three-hundred fifty-thousand and eight-hundred thousand tons of unexploded ordnance and persistent landmines affect all provinces in Vietnam to various degrees. A preliminary study in 2003 by Vietnam's Technology Center for Bomb and Mine Disposal estimated that due to the presence of unexploded ordnance, over four-thousand square kilometers of cultivated land are now fallow.

In an effort to prevent injuries from landmines, it is critical to teach people how to recognize landmines and to inform de-mining authorities of the presence of landmines. Children must be taught not to pick up mines, which often look like harmless metal or plastic objects. In Vietnam, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has collaborated with the United Nations Children's Fund to expand landmine education programs at schools and in the community.

For those who have suffered injuries from landmines in Vietnam, the U.S. Agency for International Development helps provide long-term support and prosthetics to survivors. Many non-governmental organizations, or N-G-Os, are also part of the effort. The American N-G-O, Kids First, provides assistance to survivors in Quang Tri through a scholarship program for poor youth, including one hundred students who have war-related disabilities.

Landmines are a dangerous reality that many Vietnamese continue to live with. But with the help of the U.S. and non-governmental de-mining organizations, it may be possible for Vietnam to become free from the humanitarian impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance by 2014.