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: more than 18.82 % of Vietnam is estimated to be contaminated with ERW – most of this is valuable arable land, according to the “Surveying, mapping nationwide explosive remnants of war contamination (Phase 1)” by Vietnam Bomb and Mine Technology Disposal Center (BOMICEN) – Engineering Command – Ministry of National Defense.
According to the Landmine Monitor 2015, all known casualties reported in Vietnam by end 2013 are 105,035 (38,958 killed; 66,077 injured). The Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), released figures on the number of post-conflict casualties in Vietnam from 1975 to the end of 2007: 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 Duy Xuyen District. The overall goal of the project was 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. During the project implementation process, In January 2016, DDG once again were awarded the Certificate of Merit from the Quang Nam authorities for the efforts the organisation has made to create safety and promote socio-economic development in the province through the clearance of ERW.
On completion of the project in December 2016, DDG had cleared a total of 885 evidence points and 178 dangerous areas, and released a total of 288,337m2 back to the local communities. DDG destroyed a total of 2,491 UXO and conducted activities in a total of 244 villages, exceeding the targeted 176 villages. In a 2016 impact monitoring survey, 61.6% of respondents reported that Safety and Security had been improved because of DDG’s clearance of ERW, and 20% of respondents reported that accessibility to Natural Assets had improved because of the clearance of ERW.
Due to the success of the UXO project, and since there is still a great need for landmine and munitions clearance in Quang Nam Province, DDG has begun a new collaborative project with the A. P. Møllerske Støttefond (The A. P. Møller Support Foundation) to clear a further 144 villages, clearing and releasing an additional 240,000 m2 of agricultural land.
The new collaborative project will run from 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2018. It is designed as a continuation the previous clearance activities in Quang Nam Province that were funded by Den A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal (The A.P. Møller and Wife Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation).
The A. P. Møller Support Foundation is the primary donor of DDG’s mine action operations in Vietnam.