VIENTIANE, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- The United States has handed over more equipment for the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, to prevent local residents from being injured, disabled or killed, local online newspaper Vientiane Times reported on Sunday.
The U.S. government provided vehicles and field equipment worth 1.25 million U.S. dollars to the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme. Some 15 vehicles, 150 UXO detectors and other equipment will be given to the UXO clearance teams in the southern Lao provinces of Khammuan, Savannakhet and Attapeu, the report said.
The supplies were handed over at a ceremony held on Friday attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter and Lao Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Khamkeo Sanbounkhounxay.
The local media quoted Bitter as saying that the program of support for the clearance of contaminated land reflects the close partnership between the United States and the government and people of Laos. Assistance has been provided for over two decades to address the war legacy issues.
"This contribution to the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme is part of the United States' commitment of 90 million U.S. dollars over three years to fund a national cluster munitions survey, in addition to the ongoing clearance of UXO," she added.
Khamkeo said:"The vehicles and field equipment will assist 15 UXO clearance teams to continue to clear land that still harbours unexploded ordnance in Khammuan, Savannakhet and Attapeu provinces."
The United States' assistance will enable the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme to work more effectively, while also boosting rural development and poverty eradication, he added.
Unexploded ordnance continues to affect Laos. Over the years, thousands of people, usually rural people and their children, have been killed or injured by suddenly exploded UXO, Khamkeo said.
The Lao government and its development partners have continued to cooperate to remove UXO in high-risk areas. The clearance of unexploded ordnance is one activity that will help Laos to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he added.
Since 1990, the U.S. government has granted more than 135 million U.S. dollars for UXO clearance and surveys, to help the victims of UXO-related accidents, and provide information about the risks of unexploded ordnance, Khamkeo mentioned.
According to the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme, in over 20 years of the programme's implementation, more than 380 square km of land have been cleared for safe use, enabling schools, water supplies and roads to be built.
More than 1,480,000 items of unexploded ordnance were destroyed from 1996-2016 in Laos.
In 2016 a total of 67,166 UXO items were destroyed by the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme's clearance operations.
According to statistics from Lao authorities, from 1965 to 1973, the United States dropped some two million tons of ordinance on Laos during the Vietnam War, including 2.7 million cluster bombs which are designed to break apart and release a payload of smaller bombs. As many as 30 percent of these bombs did not explode.
Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world per capita. Over the years, thousands of Lao people have been killed or injured, usually farmers tending their fields and children playing.