Goto main content

HI clearing weapons in eastern Laos

Explosive weapons
Laos

Laos is one of the countries most heavily contaminated by explosive remnants of war in the world. HI’s weapons clearance teams on the ground are working to end this terrible threat to civilian lives. 

HI’s weapons clearance teams in eastern Laos

HI’s weapons clearance teams in eastern Laos | © HI

Unprecedented level of contamination 

HI launched its weapons clearance operations on 21 January in Houameung district, Houaphan province, eastern Laos. Bombed during the Vietnam War, the country is heavily contaminated by anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs. These explosive remnants of war pose a constant threat to local lives. To protect them, HI has launched a major clearance operation in the region. 

Complex operation 

HI’s 14 weapons clearance experts start work at 7:30 am and return home at 4:30 pm. They are divided into three teams: survey, mobile and weapons clearance. Each team is involved at a different stage of the process, from identifying explosive devices to destroying them. Their task is made more difficult by the severe cold. They need to take extra care because of the steep mountainous terrain. It takes hours to trim the wild vegetation. HI’s mine clearance experts work 20 days in a row and then rest for a week. 

Protecting civilians 

The teams do vital work. As the economy is based on agriculture, villagers cannot simply abandon contaminated farmland. They must farm it at risk to their lives. They are always in danger and many are killed or maimed. Since the start of the operation, HI’s teams have cleared 11,625 square metres of land. There are explosive remnants everywhere. In Houaxieng, a village of 423 inhabitants, the team found 42 unexploded live ordnance.

Building a safer future 

These remnants are highly explosive and cannot be handled or moved. They need to be destroyed on-site, one by one. It’s slow work. Local people also need to be educated about the risks. To reduce the number of casualties, HI runs a campaign to raise their awareness and provide them with information. 

Show Transcript
Where your
support
helps

PRESS CONTACT

CANADA

Fatou Thiam

USA

Mica BEVINGTON

 

Help them
concretely

To go further

 Increase of use of landmines driven by Russia, Myanmar and non-state armed groups Explosive weapons

Increase of use of landmines driven by Russia, Myanmar and non-state armed groups

The Landmine Monitor 2022 reports a high number of casualties caused by landmines - including improvised mines and explosive remnants of war - for the seventh year in a row. The Monitor recorded 5,544 casualties in 2021. 75% of them were civilians. This high figure is mainly the result of increased armed conflicts and contamination with improvised mines since 2015. The use of landmines by the Russian and Myanmar armies, as well as by non-state armed groups in five countries, are the main factors of a sharp global increase of the use of these weapons in 2022.

States will gather in Geneva from November 21th to 25th for the 20th annual Mine Ban Treaty conference. As we celebrate the 25 years of the Ottawa Treaty, HI urges States to pressure parties to conflict to end the use of these barbaric weapons and to support the funding of victims assistance that is shrinking despite growing needs and high casualty rates in recent years.

Read the full report.

80 States have made history by endorsing the international agreement against bombing on towns and cities
© G. Lordet / HI
Explosive weapons

80 States have made history by endorsing the international agreement against bombing on towns and cities

Acknowledging the devastating humanitarian consequences of bombing and shelling of towns and cities, 80 States adopted an international agreement to better protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, at the Dublin Conference on November 18, 2022.

The day I stepped on a mine, my fate was sealed
© J. M. Vargas / HI
Explosive weapons

The day I stepped on a mine, my fate was sealed

Marta Quintero has been part of HI’s demining operations in Colombia for seven years. She is working for the future of her country with an unerring determination born out of personal experience.