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Women trained to clear unexploded bombs in Laos

29 April 2022

Two million tons of US bombs were dropped on the country during the Vietnam War


Children from Vangkhom School, Laos

Children from Vangkhom School, Laos

A TEAM of women are being trained to clear unexploded bombs in Laos, the most heavily bombed country in the world, by a Manchester-based charity.

Two million tons of bombs were dropped on the country by the United States during 580,000 bombing missions during the Vietnam War — a plane-load of bombs dropped every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years.

The air strikes sought to disrupt movement along the Ho Chi Minh Trail: an important logistical supply route used by the North Vietnamese. Up to 30 per cent of the bombs did not explode, leaving Laos littered with millions of unexploded and deadly ordnance. More than 50,000 people have been killed by unexploded bombs — 20,000 in the decades since the bombing ended in 1973.

The landmine-clearance-based charity the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has launched an appeal to fund the training of a team of women to clear the bombs. It has been working to clear areas in Laos for years.

Women had been chosen to improve gender equity in technical and other roles, a MAG spokesperson said.

Anoutsala Phichit, aged 25, is one of MAG’s team leaders who will be responsible for clearing the unexploded bombs in Laos. She said: “I am proud to see people in the community using land that me and my team have made safe, no longer worrying about the unexploded bombs.”

A MAG ambassador, the actor Rosamund Pike, said: “Clearance means kids can play safely, and entire communities can develop and thrive instead of living in fear of bombs. These communities need help right now, and that’s why I’m backing the work of MAG and the brave de-miners of Laos.”

MAGRosamund Pike

Money raised in the Unlock the Land appeal will help MAG to clear 161,600 square metres of land, in Vangkhom, which is the equivalent to almost 23 football pitches.

The UK Government will also match donations made to the appeal before 24 July.

The Minister for Asia and the Middle East, Amanda Milling, said: “This month I saw first-hand the work of MAG’s courageous, life-saving clearance teams in Laos. By removing the threat of unexploded bombs, they allow children to play safely and families to earn an income through farming.

“The generous support of the British public for MAG’s appeal will enable people to get on with their lives and to rebuild their communities.

“The UK Government will match every donation, pound by pound, to MAG’s appeal, up to £2 million, making twice the difference.”

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