DRC closes demining operations in Vietnam due to lack of fundingAfter seven years in Vietnam, DRC's demining unit DDG has officially closed operations throughout the country. Between 2013- 2019, DDG is proud to report that more than 1,2 million m2 of land being returned to communities through area clearance and nearly 40.000 community members directly reached through mine risk education sessions.
It is widely known that Vietnam is one of the most heavily landmine and unexploded ordnance contaminated countries in the world. After visiting DDG field operations in Vietnam in June, 2018, Director of Danish Refugee Council’s International Department, Rikke Friis, reflected on her experiences saying, “My short visit to Vietnam brought me into contact with a people struggling with the aftermath of war, decades after it finished... Our efforts are needed, now and in the future, and I hope DDGs work will continue for as long as we can find the funds to support it.”
In April 2020, after seven years in Vietnam, DDG has officially closed operations throughout the country. Between 2013- 2019, DDG is proud to report that more than 1,2 million m2 of land being returned to communities through area clearance and nearly 40.000 community members directly reached through mine risk education sessions.
EXTENT OF CONTAMINATION IN VIETNAM
Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) left behind from World War II, the Second Indochina War, and the Vietnam War – locally known as the “American War”—have left an estimated 66.000 km2,equal to 18% of Vietnam’s total landmass, contaminated decades after conflicts have officially concluded. During the Vietnam War alone, more than 17 million tonnes of ammunition fell on the country. The provinces of Quang Tri, Quang Nam, and Thua Thien Hue, where the livelihoods of rural populations depend on farming and rice cultivation, remain the most heavily contaminated in the country. As such, successive generations of Vietnamese civilians who have grown up without direct conflict are still heavily impacted by the lethal legacy of war through ERW.
RISKING LIVES TO MAKE A LIVING
While the extent of contamination in rural areas still makes farming dangerous today, the livelihoods of most villagers remain dependant on agriculture leaving no choice but to work dangerous fields under constant threat from ERW. Bùi Tám, now an elderly man, told DDG about the last time he worked in a rice paddy many years ago as a boy. Bùi Tám, his brother, and their mother were forced to choose between facing the threats of ERW in their fields and starvation. When the explosion came, it killed his brother and mother instantly and rendered Bùi Tám blind in one eye and unable to work for the rest of his life.
Concentrating operations in Quang Tri, Quang Nam, and Thua Thien Hue Provinces, DDG teams have cancelled nearly 100.000 m2 and cleared 1,2 million m2 of land which has been returned to communities. Additionally, through both clearance operations and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) spot tasks, DDG teams have removed and disposed of 7.827 UXO, allowing beneficiaries to use their land productively and safely.
NEW GENERATIONS UNDER THREAT
Since 1975, more than 105,000 accidents have been reported, averaging over 2,500 accidents per year. As not all accidents are reported and thus go unrecorded in official statistics, the real number of accidents is, unfortunately, certainly higher. Unfortunately, it is suspected future accident rates will increase if clearance activities are not escalated in Vietnam, as new generations who have not grown up during the war and its immediate aftermath are less conscious of the remaining threats of ERW contamination. “It is a sobering to think that the last victim of the Vietnam war has not been born yet,” commented Rikke Friis during her 2018 visit in Vietnam.
With this is mind, DDG’s work in Vietnam has put additional focus of extensive Mine Risk Education (MRE) programming. By providing risk education to local teachers who further disseminated information in the classroom, DDG was able to educate over 16.000 school children on the risks of ERW and how to act safely. Outside of school programmes, DDG risk education sessions benefited an additional 21.289 community members. As a result of these efforts, a total of 38.488 local residents have been directly reached by DDG’s risk education programming contributing to the development of safer communities across Vietnam.
As DDG operations come to a close, the dangers posed by ERW and UXO remain an unfortunate reality of life in rural Vietnam. DDG is proud to have contributed seven years of service to the fight against landmines and ERW in one of the most heavily affected regions in the world through extensive clearance and risk education operations. Still, the needs remain clear and there is much work to do in Vietnam – helping to keep people safe, and cope with the aftermath of conflict.
From 2013 to 2014 Mine Risk Education activities were funded by the LEGO Foundation, Lisa and Gudmund Jørgensen's Fund, Rice Project - Sikker Barndom (Safe Childhood) and Suveræne Sæsoner. From late 2014 to early 2020 clearance operations where funded by the A.P. Møller and Wife Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation who made the work possible.