MAG: “Lao PDR, Cluster casualties continue”

Posted: Jul 27, 2010

The upcoming ban on cluster munitions, which will enter into force on 1 August, has not lessened the need for unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance to continue.

Santi (or Ti) is an 11-year-old boy from Nathong village in Xieng Khouang province. He survived a serious UXO accident in June.

“One day, a few weeks ago, my father asked me to go to block off the stream that brings water into our paddy field,” he explains. “After I finished that, I went back to digging our vegetable plot. I tried to remove a small bush by pulling it out, but that didn’t work. So then I used my spade to dig it out. Suddenly I heard an explosion and at the same time I fell down unconscious.”

As his family had no vehicle, it took more than two hours to get Santi to the provincial hospital in Phonsavanh. He had struck a cluster bomb submunition, known locally as a bombie. When it exploded, metal fragments similar to ball bearings were sent tearing into his right arm, stomach and legs. Most of his teeth were knocked out by the blast.

Daily UXO accidents in Lao PDR

Dr. Somsavay, the head of the hospital, says that his staff alone deal with an average of two UXO casualties every week. According to the country’s National Regulatory Authority, in the whole of Lao PDR there were around 300 UXO casualties a year for most of the last decade.

Santi is amongst the 60 per cent or so of accident victims who survive, but his injuries are extremely serious. “Santi only has a small chance of keeping his arm, but we will do our best,” said Dr. Somsavay.

Reporting by Linthong Syphavong, Communications Coordinator, MAG Lao PDR

MAG thanks the following donors to its Lao PDR operations: AusAID; UK Department for International Development (DFID) / UKaid; European Commission; Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, US Department of State; World Vision.

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