Known by many names – the “American War,” the “Second Indochina War” and the “Vietnam War” – the regional conflict which devastated Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam in the period 1965-1975 left an extensive and lethal legacy of explosive remnants of war (unexploded ordnance or UXO and landmines – ERW) which impacts successive generations of the civilian population, primarily in poor, rural areas. Particularly widespread, persistent and volatile of these hazards are the numerous types of cluster munitions remnants (CMR), known regionally as “bombis,” which kill and maim hundreds of civilians annually, causing untold economic and emotional hardship since they primarily impact poor people in prime livelihood areas where they live, work and play.
While other ERW, such as large bombs, may be buried deep in the earth and still many other item types nearer to or on the surface are far more stable, cluster munitions remnants have come to characterise the generational legacy of a conflict which killed and injured millions in running its course – and since 1975 has continued in this vein to kill and injure well over a hundred thousand more throughout the region.
Vietnam is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world and subsequently this small nation faces a nearly unimaginable level of residual contamination from ERW. This legacy has, for generations now, posed a hazard especially for the rural poor in Vietnam and will do so for generations to come: about 21% of Vietnam is estimated to be contaminated with ERW – most of this is valuable arable land.
In December 2000, the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), released figures on the number of post-conflict casualties in Vietnam: 38,849 people were reported killed and 65,852 injured; however, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has put these figures at 40,000 killed and 100,000 injured.
Studies have shown that most of these incidents occurred in agricultural areas during normal daily livelihood activities – meaning that most people become casualties in areas where they live and work.
Casualty rates in the uplands of Vietnam amongst poor, rural ethnic minorities are many times higher than in the lowlands and these vulnerable, poor communities are our primary beneficiaries. Vietnam says the country will need more than USD 10 billion and 300 years to be free from post-war landmines and UXO, taking into consideration the present speed of demining.
Quang Nam Province
DDG was officially registered in Vietnam in 2012 and is currently the only demining INGO operating in Quang Nam.
DDG started Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) activities in Quang Nam province in January 2013 with a MRE project in one of the most affected district of Duy Xuyen. The project’s direct beneficiaries were local school children, teachers, and communities in the target district. A total of 38,831 individuals received MRE training, including 1,004 school teachers, 16,502 school students, 21,289 community residents, and 36 members of the My Son UNESCO World Heritage Site management board.
Information gathered from the local communities during the MRE sessions indicated a very clear need for the clearance of explosive remnants of war in Duy Xuyen District, and other districts similarly affected in Quang Nam Province.
Thanks to the success of the DDG MRE programmes, in December 2013, DDG was officially recognised by the provincial authorities as an active contributor to the province’s socio-economic development.
As a follow-up to the MRE project, in September 2014, DDG commenced a UXO clearance project in this district. The overall goal of the project is to remove the threat from ERW from the most contaminated communes in the district where the local population are most at risk and where land can be used for community development, in response to reports from community representatives and local authorities.
Innovating mine action through Mine Action applications (MApps)
As an addition to mine risk education and mine action projects, DDG is designing, developing an innovating two-way communication web portal and parallel SMS service that aims to improve the service provision and exchange between the people living in the conflict affected communities and the mine action operators assisting these communities.
Through the web portal and SMS service, affected communities can report suspected dangerous items they have detected in their community to the provincial Mine Action Centre - the Legacy of War Coordination (LWCC). Both the web portal and SMS service is currently being piloted in the Hai Lang district, Quang Tri province. Have a look at the web portal in Quang Tri here: http://www.thongtinbommin.vn/
MApps Vietnam is part of a global pilot project on digital applications for mine action. More information about the global project can be found by clicking here.
MApps Vietnam is implemented in close partnership with the Quang Tri Legacy of War Coordination Centre (LWCC) and the Quang Troi Department of Foreign Affairs (DoFA).
A.P. Moeller and Wife Chastine Mc-Kinney Moeller Foundation is the primary donor of DDG’s mine action operations in Vietnam.