International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action: Tragedy highlights the importance of tackling UXO
At the National University of Laos representatives from Government, United Nations and organizations working in the UXO sector gathered to mark the 2011 International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. This was the first significant gathering for those in the Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) sector since the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions held in Vientiane in November last year.
This year's event took place in the shadow of another recent tragic UXO accident. Speaking at the opening of the event, Ms Kyoko Yokosuka, UNDP Resident Representative (a.i.) told the story of 28-year old mother of two, Mrs Khamkong, who was seriously injured by a UXO set off by a stove that was warming up. Her family savings had to be used for her treatment and some members of her community have also donated their own savings.
Ms Yokosuka said, “This story highlights the extreme suffering that UXO accidents cause families and communities both in the short-term and the long-term…as we learn from stories of those affected, like Mrs Khamkong, UXO survivors often get trapped in a cycle of poverty.” In recognition of the impact of UXO on all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Government of Lao PDR, with the support of the UN and development partners, introduced MDG 9 last year, a localized MDG to reduce the impacts of UXO by 2020.
The Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Mrs Onchanh Thammavong, further highlighted the effect that UXO has on the lives of the Lao people and stressed the need to clear more land for agricultural production.
In his message, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon called for, “Universal adherence to the important treaties, increased support for mine awareness and mine action, and greater solidarity in support of this crucial element in our drive to build a safer and more prosperous world for all.”
The UN in Lao PDR has estimated that around $30 million a year will be needed to clear high value agricultural land of UXO by 2020. The Government of Lao PDR currently holds the Presidency of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and has identified UXO as a priority development issue in achieving the MDGs by 2015 and exiting Least Developed Country status by 2020.