In per capita terms, Lao PDR is the most heavily bombed country in the world. Four decades after the Indochina war ended, unexploded ordnance (UXO) continues to pose a major humanitarian threat and a significant obstacle to the development of the country. Reducing the impact of UXO on communities has become the ninth Millennium Development Goal specific to Lao PDR. Effective action in this area will contribute significantly to the achievement of most MDGs as well.
The 2008 National UXO Survey indicated some 50,136 casualties from 1964 to 2008, with the bulk of casualties between ages 15 and 35 years. The survey recorded approximately 20,000 survivors, and there are an estimated 12,000 survivors alive today. The National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action in Lao PDR (NRA) established the UXO Survivor Tracking System in 2010. Effective risk education and the clearance of high-risk areas have led to a significant reduction in casualties in recent years.
However, the most daunting challenge remains the magnitude of the UXO problem in the Lao PDR. In the past 40 years, less than 2 per cent of contaminated areas have been cleared. The Government of Lao PDR has set a clearance target of 20,000 hectares a year. This target, however, is still far from being met. Meeting it will require almost a four-fold increase in survey and clearance activity
Overall, meeting the national UXO targets will require a significant scaling up of resources and capacities, with greater attention to the principles of the Vientiane Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The challenge in the longer term will be to maintain national capacity whilst gradually reducing international support, and mainstreaming UXO action into sustainable socio-economic development strategies and programmes.