VIETNAM: A shortage of everything – except big bombs
MAG safely removed three big bombs in one of the poorest provinces of Vietnam, Quang Binh, in the space of just two weeks during August.
- Three 500-750lbs bombs removed by MAG from Quang Binh Province, where 20 per cent of people live below the poverty line
- The presence of such bombs hits poor communities hard, restricting their use of land for agriculture and placing financial strains on victims' families
- More than a third of central Vietnam is still contaminated with unexploded ordnance
- MAG has been working in the country since 1999 and has removed more than 140,000 items of unexploded ordnance from 1,290 villages
Two 750lbs bombs were uncovered in two separate villages by community members as they were farming, while a 500lbs bomb was found during construction work on Provincial Road number 20 – a wartime ‘hotspot’ along which 70,000 people were killed, approximately one death for every metre.
Two of the bombs safely removed by MAG; top: an M117 (750 ib); below: Mark 82 (500 ib)
The provincial authorities were informed and sought MAG’s assistance. The items were safely removed and stored for later bulk demolition by MAG’s technicians.
The discovery of the bombs is a reminder of the link between levels of unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination and poverty.
According to a recent conference organised by the Quang Binh local authorities and the Landmine Survivors Network, the province’s per-capita income is just US$650 per annum, significantly lower than the national average. Twenty per cent of the province’s households live below the poverty line.
UXO contamination contributes to poverty by restricting access to land needed for agriculture or infrastructure, by necessitating the need for resources for clearance, and because victims of UXO or landmine accidents place their families under financial strain.
The two villages where the 750lbs bombs were found were subject to heavy bombardment during the Vietnam-American war, due to their strategic location close to the Ho Chi Minh trail, a critical supply route for the North Vietnamese forces. B-52 aircraft were used to bomb North Vietnamese military bases in the area.
More than one-third of central Vietnam is still contaminated by UXO, according to a recent report released by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) and the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense’s Technology Center for Bomb and Mine Disposal (BOMICEN).
Quang Binh and neighbouring Quang Tri, which border the former DMZ (demilitarised zone), also have the highest number of post-conflict deaths and injuries associated with leftover ordnance in the country (6,760 and 5,847 respectively.)
MAG has been working in Vietnam since 1999 and has removed more than 140,000 items of unexploded ordnance from 1,290 villages. MAG currently has seven Mine Action Teams active in the field.