Unexploded ordnance harming development of Laos: UN official

by IANS |

Vientiane, Sep 12 (IANS) Unexploded ordnance (UXO) has caused great harm to the development of Laos, highlighting the need for its accelerated clearance, state media reported Monday citing a top UN official as saying.

Kanni Wignaraja, the UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Development Program (UNDP) Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, made the remarks during her visit to Laos last week aimed at strengthening support for development priorities of the Southeast Asian country, Xinhua news agency quoted the report as saying.

"UXO has harmed the country too much for too long and that needs to change," she told reporters in Lao capital Vientiane.

"I have visited Laos a couple of times before and looked at this issue, and by now the country should have advanced much faster in clearing unexploded ordnance. It is slow and needs to accelerate."

Wignaraja said the UNDP is pleased to be part of this effort and is committed to helping Laos accelerate UXO clearance efforts.

She noted that unexploded devices have been present in Laos for more than 40 years.

According to the UNDP, Laos is, per capita, the most heavily bombed country in the world.

As per statistics from Lao authorities, from 1965 to 1973, the US dropped some 2 million tons of ordnance on the country during the Vietnam War, including 2.7 million cluster bombs which were designed to break apart and release a payload of smaller bombs.

As many as 30 per cent of these bombs did not explode.

More than 40 years after the end of the war, unexploded ordnance remains a major humanitarian and socio-economic challenge to the country, causing deaths and injuries, limiting access to potentially productive land, and adding substantial costs to the process of development.

During the 2008-2022 period, 1,091 people were victims of 673 UXO accidents, of whom 808 were injured and 283 died, according to data from the National Regulatory Authority Office for UXO/Mine Action in Laos.

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