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History and War
The Lao PDR is, per capita, the most heavily bombed country in the world. Throughout the Second Indochina War (1964-1973) more than 580,000 bombing missions (or a bombing mission every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years) and wide ranging ground battles, led to over 2 million tons of ordnance being dropped on Laos. Over 270 million cluster munitions were used, of which there an estimated 80 million malfunctioned and remanined live and buried in the Lao landscape after the war's end.
Today, that same unexploded ordnance (UXO) continues to contaminate vast areas of the country; dangerously lying in forests, rice fields, villages, school grounds, roads and other populated areas.
Approximately 25 % of Laos' 10,000 plus villages are UXO contaminated. A map illustrating the number and location of bombing runs according to US bombing records can be found here.
Despite huge advancements in the human and institutional capacity within the UXO Sector, and much investment from the international community, Laos still has a very significant UXO problem.
Clearance of contaminated land and release of land via technical survey continues to increase year-by-year. Risk Education messaging reaches farther and wider than ever before. However, people still continue to be injured and killed by unexploded bombs lying dormant and hidden all across Laos.
The biggest problem is the threat posed by leftover cluster bombs. Currently, these make up roughly 50% of the type of UXO being found and cleared in Laos, and in the last decade they have caused approximately 30% of all UXO related accidents.
The impact felt as a result of the lingering danger of UXO is multi-dimensional. Most tragic is the continuing number of accidents occurring and the number of lives lost or badly hurt. Simultaneously, the continued presence of UXO curtails socio-economic development in Laos; local development, agriculture productivity, infrastructure building, and economic investment, are all negatively affected. Ultimately, it is the people of Laos who suffer, for UXO contributes to a cycle of poverty experienced in so many communities. UXO impact explained.