WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 21, 2014) — Legacies of War announced Tuesday that the United States will spend $12 million in fiscal year 2014 for unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance, victim assistance and risk education in Laos.
The funding was included in the recent omnibus spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. The amount represents the largest annual spending by the U.S. to support various groups in Laos working to improve clearance efficiency, lower causalty rates and support current victims.
Legacies of War, a Washington-based nonprofit, has worked hard to focus the attention of the U.S. on the problem of UXO in Laos.
“We are pleased to see that the U.S. government is stepping up to meet its responsibility to ensure that the unexploded bombs leftover from the Vietnam War era are finally cleared,” said Brett Dakin, Chair of the Board of Legacies of War. “We are grateful for the ongoing commitment of the policy makers in Washington and our partners in Laos who are dedicated to solving this four-decade old problem.”
From 1964 to 1973, Laos was involved in the Indochina conflict, and was subjected to the heaviest bombing campaign in history with approximately two million tons of ordnance dropped on the country. Of the 270 million cluster bombs dropped, about thirty-percent never exploded, leaving an estimated 80 million bomblets littering 14 of the 17 provinces in Laos.
“The tragic legacy of cluster munitions in Laos is one that all Americans should care about,” said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds UXO clearance programs around the world. “I hope the additional funds in fiscal year 2014 will become part of a multi-year program to finally overcome this cruel history and enable the Laotian people to rebuild their lives.”
Since the end of the bombing, the U.S. has provided $74M, including the $12M in FY14, for UXO activities in Laos. Of the total amount, $32 million, or forty-percent, has been allocated in the last five years.
“No doubt there’s been tremendous progress in the UXO Lao sector in recent years due to increased visibility, funding and collaboration among stakeholders. However, this is still a huge problem for the people of Laos – less than one-percent of the littered land has been cleared and there are currently over 10,000 victims in Laos,” said Channapha Khamvongsa, Executive Director of Legacies of War. “The latest victims resulted from an accident that occurred during the first week of 2014 when six children in Boulikhamxay Province, ages 8 to 12 were injured, and three of whom died. Forty-percent of victims are children.”
Founded in 2004, Legacies of War raises awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos and advocates for the clearance of unexploded bombs, provides space for healing the wounds of war, and creates greater hope for a future of peace. Legacies of War plans to continue raising awareness and facilitating dialogue to resolve the UXO problem in Laos in the next decade.
For more information visit www.legaciesofwar.org.