The Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) is rolling out the second phase of a project at a cost of $2.5 million to help victims of UXO-related accidents in Laos’ Xieng Khuang and Huaphan provinces.
Last year, the Korean agency provided $5.5 million for the second phase of a UXO project in Laos running from 2019-2022.
The project is taking place in line with the terms spelled out in a document signed by the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in the Lao PDR (NRA) under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Koica, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Koica is providing its contribution in two packages, with $3 million being used for the institutional strengthening of the NRA, through the UNDP.
The other part of the second phase of the project, with funding of $2.5 million, will focus on the victims of UXO explosions. Bilateral cooperation between Koica and the NRA, with a focus on helping UXO victims, is underway in Xieng Khuang and Huaphan provinces.
Implementation of the plan was reported on during a field visit last week by officials from NRA, Koica and UNDP to Xieng Khuang province.
The field visit was led by the NRA office’s director-general Chomyaeng Phengthongsawat, Deputy Resident Representative of the Koica Office in Laos Sangjun Kim, and Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Laos Catherine Puong.
During the visit they met a woman who had lost her leg in a UXO-related accident that occurred in 2014 in Nadi village, Paek district. The project leaders took stock of the assistance provided to the woman and others who had been injured through Koica assistance.
Kim said Koica had been supporting the UXO project since 2016 and the initiative was now in its second phase with funding of $5.5 million. Of that amount, $2.5 million has been allocated for victim assistance.
“We are preparing to implement activities in relation to UXO victim assistance and will assess their actual needs.
“The assistance provided to UXO victims in the second phase of the project will not be different from the first phase, under which financial support was provided to those who suffered injuries. The Quality of Life Association is doing this work now and is also providing medical support.
“We hope that more UXO victims will benefit from our support,” he said.
Bounheuang Soulixay, director of the Labour and Social Welfare Department in Xieng Khuang province, said 1,824 people in the province had been disabled in UXO accidents, most of whom were heads of families and children. In Xieng Khuang, an estimated 20,000 people have survived out of more than 50,000 who were killed or injured between 1964 and 2008.
Based on data recorded in the NRA Dashboard, Xieng Khuang has recorded the highest rate of UXO accidents in Laos, with 206 accidents occurring between 2008 and 2018, resulting in 292 casualties.
This has inflicted immeasurable psychological strain on families and communities, while also creating urgent medical needs for those who survive accidents.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK