The Threat of Explosive Remnants of War in A Luoi, VietnamThe A Luoi district in Vietnam is covered with explosive remnants of war (ERW), posing a great threat to the local population. The Danish Demining Group (DDG) has been approved to conduct survey and clearance activities in the area, with the aim of reducing this threat and improving the socioeconomic situation of affected communities.
An estimated 745,177 cluster munitions remain from the Vietnam War in the A Luoi district, when it was an area of strategic importance subject to prolonged engagements between the People’s Army of Vietnam and the combined forces of the US and Republic of Viet Nam. The impact of this legacy on the current population is clear: the provincial Department of Defense reported 2,661 casualties from ERW between 1970 and 2009. Of 64,793.6 hectares of contaminated land, according to the national impact survey, only 5.6 hectares have been surveyed and cleared, indicating the need for the work of organisations like DDG.
“Our primary goal is to improve human security and contribute towards the improvement of the socioeconomic situation of ERW-affected communities through a progressive baseline survey methodology that provides comprehensive, evidence-based threat assessment and prioritisation”, says DDG & Danish Refugee Council Country Director, Clinton Smith.
According to Smith, “There are still areas with people living in very dangerous post-conflict conditions, with very little outside assistance”. Further, going about their everyday lives entails great risks for locals, with most accidents occurring in rice fields, forests and near homes. Smith describes this dilemma: “The A Luoi district population consists of ethnic minorities whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and forestry”.
To meet the need for ERW clearance in the area, DDG envisages working with ten communes in A Luoi, six of which are in the top 100 for cluster munitions strikes in Vietnmam. In addition, DDG will re-establish the Mine Action Database Unit of Thua Thien province. This is part of the provincial information management and mine action planning and coordination capabilities. Thus far, DDG has recruited 53 new staff for the project and established a small field office in Hue city. Training has begun for a number of tasks, including Advanced Life Support, Battle Area Clearance and Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
Advanced Life Support field medic training in A Luoi. Photo by: Christopher Broome
DDG also has offices in Hanoi and Quang Nam province, where it conducts Unexploded Ordnance Disposal, Non-Technical Surveys, Area Clearance and Risk Education. Vietnam is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world and subsequently, this small nation faces an extreme level of contamination from ERW. This poses great risks to the Vietnamese population, particularly for the rural poor. DDG’s work aims to reduce this threat.