by Massimo Moriconi on November 12, 2018
Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world during the Vietnam War. Between beautiful waterfalls and strolls through the placid streets of Luang Prabang, 30 minutes to the UXO Lao Visitor Center will open your eyes to the terrible Laotian history.
Between the years 1964 and 1973, the United States carried out more than half a million bombing missions, dropping over two million tons of explosive devices. It is equivalent to a load plan every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years.
More than 270 million sub-munitions (bombs) from cluster bombs have been dropped on Laos. About 80 million did not explode.
50,000 civilians have been killed or maimed by UXO (unexploded ordnance) accidents, at least 20,000 people since the end of the war in 1973. Half of the victims are children.
One person is killed or injured almost every day by UXO in Laos.
The visitor center is part of the UXO National Unexploded Ordnance Program (UXO Lao), the national settlement operator UXO. While the room is dimly lit and a little dingy, the educational signage is excellent, taking you through history, impact, current problems, the gradual process of demining and the overwhelming amount of work that awaits them. In four decades, less than 1% of unexploded bombs have been detonated. At the current rate, the country will live with this problem for centuries.
Forty-one of the 46 poorest districts in Laos have UXO contamination. It limits infrastructure and the expansion of crops, causing food shortages and hindering people's ability to have sustainable livelihoods.