What We Do
FSD has been working in Laos since 2005. There have been two main components to our work here, capacity building and UXO clearance. Capacity building involves increasing the ability of Lao institutions and staff to tackle the UXO problem in their country. We do that by offering training to qualified Lao men and women and by working with the Government of Laos to help strengthen the systems that regulate mine action activities in the country. In addition to this, we operate UXO clearance teams that have been clearing land prior to its use for sustainable development projects in the highly affected provinces of Sekong and Savannakhet.
Why We Do It
Laos is one of the world’s most bombed countries. It is estimated that between 1964 and 1973 over 630,000 bombing missions were flown, dropping some 2 million tons of ordnance on the country. Many of the munitions dropped were high explosive sub munitions (known in Laos as ‘bombies’). The high failure rate of these munitions (between 7 and 30%) means many of them contaminate the ground, still active and still dangerous, for years afterwards. Other munitions scattered from destroyed ammunition dumps and convoys (often the targets of the air attacks) and from land battles, add to the mix of unexploded ordnance (UXO) that litters two-thirds of the Lao countryside.
Lao people, particularly those living in rural areas (85% of the inhabitants), rely heavily on farming and agriculture. However, the presence of UXO limits the amount of land available for farming, making expansion of fields extremely hazardous. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that approximately 30% of the population has insufficient food for more than six months of the year. Chronic malnutrition is high, with some studies showing it to affect 47% of the population. Food insecurity is particularly prevalent in UXO contaminated areas.
There are international organizations in Laos that are working to help the poorer communities increase their quality of life and improve their food security. Often the projects that are implemented involve expanding a rice field, digging a fish pond or improving access to markets through road construction. In a country that is as heavily bombed as Laos it is often impossible for international organizations to ask vulnerable communities to work new areas of land where there is a possibility of UXO contamination and a risk of accident. Therefore, FSD is asked to clear the land before use by the development organization to ensure the land is safe.
How We Do It
Support the World Food Programme (WFP) and CARE International’s food security and livelihoods projects
FSD has been working in support of WFP’s food for work projects in Savannakhet and Sekong Provinces. We have been clearing and releasing farmable land to help villagers escape food insecurity. In accordance with a work plan, formulated by WFP and approved by the local authorities, the FSD’s tasks include rice field expansion, crop irrigation schemes, fish farms, tree plantations and access roads.
Pre-development clearance is also being done in Sekong province for a project implemented by CARE International. The aim of the project is to reduce the vulnerability of the poor by integrating poverty reduction and cross cutting issues with UXO approaches in Laos. FSD works with CARE to do this by reducing physical risks and livelihood constraints associated with UXO contamination through clearance, first response first aid training, and mine risk education projects.
Building national capacity
In 2006 FSD partnered with the national clearance agengcy, UXO Lao, to conduct a Senior EOD technician (EOD Level-4) course. The Senior EOD Technician qualification represents the epitome of capacity building in Mine Action in Laos. The training is highly technical, comparable to the training received by international Technical Advisors. Those who successfully graduate will in many organizations replace international Technical Advisors, as has been the case in FSD. While SEODTs are in great demand by UXO Lao and humanitarian Mine Action NGOs, not enough have been trained and qualified to meet this demand.
FSD has responded to two requests from the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) in the drafting of National Standards for Mine Action which out line rules and regulations for all mine action activities in the country. The standards received Lao government approval in January 2009 and are posted in pdf. format in Lao and English on the NRA website (http://www.nra.gov.la). FSD has also supported the NRA in the drafting of Mine Action Training Standards. These cover all EOD Levels (1 to 4), Surveyors, Trauma Medics, Instructors and Mine Clearance Levels 1 to 2.
As part of FSD’s support to the NRA’s survey, data and mapping department, FSD has also processed UXO contamination and clearance data for inclusion on the NRA website. (http://www.nra.gov.la/Data_Clearance.php).
Area clearance: 46 tasks
Land release: 127,387m2
339 UXO were destroyed during these tasks
Roving clearance: 55 tasks
317 UXO including 22 aircraft bombs
Technical survey operations:
Land release: 10,179m2
Area clearance: 127 tasks.
Land release: 453,725 m2
572 UXO were destroyed during these tasks.
Roving clearance: 75 tasks
3,817 UXO including 26 aircraft bombs