Do you remember hearing that Hillary Clinton visited Laos last month?
The US Secretary of State announced a renewed US effort to rid that
country of the devastating remnants of the Vietnam War that plague
them on a daily basis, namely the un-exploded bombs that continue to
kill and maim people on an almost daily basis, while they try to farm
their way out of poverty.
Last Night Ken Hayes and I depart for Laos as part of that effort, armed
with new technology Aqua Survey has developed. We hope will help
speed the process of locating and disarming the munitions that are
hidden under farms, villages and roads. I'm writing this during our lay over in Munich.
Here are a few notes on the underlying problem;
1) Although War was never officially declared on Laos during the
Vietnam conflict, 2 million tons of bombs were dropped, a ton for
every Laotian man woman and child, over a 9 year period.That's more
than the amount dropped during WWII on Germany and Japan combined.
Included were 500 pounders as well as cluster bombs that would open up
and distribute grenade-sized bomb-lets across acres of land..
2) The numbers of injury's and deaths from exploding munitions, which
are hidden under the earth in almost any plot of land a Laotian might
want to farm, build, or travel on, are down from an almost daily basis
a few years ago to several a week. That means that several times a
week a child has her hands blown off, or the breadwinner of a family
is killed. Every week, since 1973.
3) Today the day to day detection and removal process is largely done
by Lao women and men, trained in UXO procedures and armed with
modern metal detectors. Ken and I will be sharing Aqua Surveys new
insight into remote detection with the Laotian UXO Techs to help find
more the munitions that are out of reach for the standard detection
4) We will also be visiting the C.O.P.E Center with some school
supplies for the children being treated there and fitted with
prosthetic limbs. And I feel selfish for dreading this opportunity.