Dang Village, Mahaxay District, 4 April 2019 – To mark this year’s Mine Awareness Day, the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector (NRA) and UNDP organized a celebration in Khammouane province.
April 4 marks the International Day for UXO / Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. In many countries troubled by such legacy, activities are ongoing on this day to highlight how explosive remnants of war affect vulnerable communities and people.
On this occasion, H.E. Dr. Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Chairman of the NRA, and Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UNDP Resident Representative led a delegation to Mahaxay District. Khammouane Province is one of the country’s most UXO-contaminated provinces. The activities were centered around Dang Village’s primary school, where UXO school curriculum textbooks and T-shirts with SDG 18 branding were handed out to students for UXO Risk Education.
Addressing the students and their teachers, the Minister said: “Over recent years, 46 cases of UXO occurred in Khammouane, which caused 94 deaths and injuries. For Mahasay district, there were 5 cases of UXO accidents and 14 deaths and injuries.” The number of casualties around the whole of the country has dropped significantly over the past years, with an all-time low of 24 cases in 2018.
Mr. Khamsy Oudthivong, Vice Governor of Khammouane in charge of UXO and Chairman of UXO Provincial Management Committee, as well as Mr. Phoukhieo Chanthasomboune, Director General of the NRA, were also present at the ceremony. The handover was followed by a UXO mine risk education puppet show, organized by the national clearance operator UXO Lao.
Dang Village and the whole district were struck heavily in last year’s floods, as waters may have dislodged and moved UXOs. Areas that were previously cleared of UXOs, or that were free of unexploded ordnance, may now be contaminated.
Ms. Immonen explained that the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has provided a grant of USD 3.8 million to four UN Agencies – WHO, WFP, FAO and UNDP - for life-saving response in the aftermath of the 2018 floods. The grant targeted Khammouane Province and with its help, UNDP has provided short-term employment to 3,000 villagers who are currently repairing roads and other community infrastructure damaged by the flood.
“The floods may have moved UXO around. Because of this, raising awareness on the dangers of UXO with children is an important aspect of disaster recovery efforts. This is why we have come to Dang Village today, to make this statement on International Mine Awareness Day and ensure the safety of these children”, Ms. Immonen said.
This year’s theme for International Mine Awareness Day is "United Nations Promotes SDGs – Safe Ground – Safe Home", very much in line with this celebration. Lao PDR’s commitment to the theme is apparent also in its efforts of working towards achieving its own national national Sustainable Development Goal SDG 18 on Lives Safe from UXO.
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Ms. Ildiko Hamos-Sohlo
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Mr. Somlith Khounpaseuth
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