VIENTIANE, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Some 23 people have been injured or killed as a result of exploding unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos so far in 2017, government officials said here Monday while calling for enhanced international efforts.
In 2016 the number was 59, the Lao government said ahead of the seventh anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which falls on Tuesday.
Up to 30 percent of the total 270 million cluster munitions dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War did not detonate, according to a report by Lao state-run media Vientiane Times.
Around 80 million bomblets remained scattered and buried over much of the country's landmass, and it is not clear how many of these remain a live threat, the report said.
The hazards of UXO correlate to poverty levels, with the most contaminated districts in the country often also being among the poorest, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Khampheng Saysompheng said at a ceremony marking the Convention.
"Laos has reviewed the national implementation of the convention, and we hope to share some lessons learnt with other parties of the convention in the next annual meeting being held in Geneva, Switzerland this September," Khampheng said.
"We fully support the convention's implementation, especially UXO surveys ... Based on evidence gained from the surveys we will be able to confirm that an area is no longer contaminated with UXO, and allow people to utilize those lands again."
Since September 2016, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) had worked with the Lao government to develop a long-term aspiration for the UXO sector, called the national Sustainable Development Goal 18 on removing the UXO obstacle to development, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Laos Kaarina Immonen said at the ceremony.
In total, during the past 20 years of its existence, UXO Lao has cleared more than 61,000 hectares of land for safe use, destroying more than 1.8 million pieces of different types of UXO, according to a UN report.
With Laos being the second signatory to after Norway, the Convention on Cluster Munitions has made a vast contribution to supporting the country and UXO Lao, the national UXO clearance operator, in the efforts to address this violent chapter in the history of Laos, Vientiane Times said in its report.