The United States is strengthening its commitment to the UXO sector in Laos by increasing its assistance to $13 million this year. Daniel A. Clune, U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR and Phoukhieo Chanthasomboune, Director of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) made the announcement of the increase on May 8 at the offices of the NRA. Ambassador Clune and Mr. Phoukhieo participated in a signing ceremony for a new MOU between the NRA and Mines Advisory Group (MAG), which will implement over $2 million in U.S. funding to clear UXO from Xiengkhouang Province.
Due to assistance from many countries and the hard work of many organizations, casualties from UXO accidents have decreased in recent years from an average of about 300 per year to less than 50 for the past two years. However, Ambassador Clune pointed out that “we still have work to do. There are still too many casualties.”
The U.S. began its cooperation with Laos in 1993 with funding to provide victims’ assistance. In 1996, the American government broadened its assistance program to include clearance and risk education. Since 1993, the U.S. has provided over $83 million in UXO-related assistance to Laos. Prior to this year’s increase, the U.S provided about $9 million per year in 2012 and 2013 and $12 million in 2014.
As in years past, U.S. funding will support cooperation with the NRA, UXO-Lao, other humanitarian clearance operators, international organizations, and local organizations. The funding will also help support evidence-based survey. U.S. funds for clearance will focus on provinces seriously impacted by cluster munitions. Victims’ assistance will provide direct services to survivors of UXO accidents and their families and also support the capacity development of national institutions to provide victim’s assistance. Funds will also help strengthen first aid and emergency response of key health facilities and village volunteers in heavily impacted provinces. Funding for risk awareness supports educating Lao citizens – especially children – about the dangers of UXO.