Unexploded ordnance or UXO – bombs, shells, grenades, and landmines – the remains of decades of armed conflict, continue to pose a threat to the people of Laos.
The United States is strengthening its commitment by increasing its assistance from $9 million in 2012 and 2013 to $12 million this year. Daniel A. Clune, U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR, and Phoukhieo Chanthasomboune, Director of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA), announced the increase on June 6 at the offices of the NRA.
Assistance from many countries and the hard work of many organizations have helped decrease casualties from UXO-related accidents in recent years from an average of about 300 per year to a low of 41 in 2013. However, Ambassador Clune pointed out that “41 is still 41 too many.”
The U.S. began its cooperation with Laos in 1993 with funding to provide victim’s assistance. In 1996, the U.S. Government broadened its assistance program to include clearance and risk education. Since 1993, the U.S. has provided over $70 million in UXO-related assistance to Laos.
As in years past, U.S. funding will support cooperation with the NRA, UXO-Lao, other humanitarian clearance operators, and international and local organizations. U.S. funds for clearance operations will be focused on provinces seriously impacted by cluster munitions. U.S. support to victim’s assistance will provide direct services to survivors of UXO accidents and their families, and also support capacity development of national institutions to provide victim’s assistance.
Funds will also be used to help strengthen the first aid and emergency response capabilities of key health facilities and village volunteers in heavily impacted provinces. Funding for risk awareness supports educating Lao citizens – especially children – about the dangers of UXO.
The U.S. is committed to working with Laos and its international partners in eliminating the threat posed by unexploded ordnance.