Laos was established as the Kingdom of Lan Xang, literally meaning “million elephants”, by King Fa Ngum in 1353 in what is now South East Asia, sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand. From 1955 to 1975, Laos was put in the crossfire of the Vietnam War between North Vietnam, supported by the communist countries like the former U.S.S.R., and South Vietnam, backed by the United States and other anti-communist countries. Throughout the decades that followed, Laos was tossed from leader to leader, resulting in constant armed conflict in Laos until 1988 when a gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began to settle decades of unrest.
The Lao Government has shown that unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination still affects more than 25% of Lao villages. Between 1999 and 2008, there were 2,184 casualties (including 834 deaths) from UXO incidents and more than 50,000 people have been killed or injured as a result of UXO accidents since 1964. UXO contamination also remains a key cause of poverty and is one of the prime factors limiting the country's long-term development, preventing people from using land and denying access to basic services.
As in other South East Asia countries, such as Cambodia and Vietnam, collecting scrap metal is a major cause of UXO accidents. Forced into the trade by poverty, people risk their lives using primitive detectors to hunt for scrap, with the knowledge every piece they pick up could be a deadly bomb.
Your help has allowed us make our program in Laos one of the largest programs globally. Given its connection to the U.S. and its tragic history, we do accept targeted donations specifically for Laos and can work with you to give individually or play a fundraiser for this country. Please see the YOUR HELP page for examples of how individual donations have helped our programs in Laos and more information on how you can give directly to this country.
The U.S. State Department's Weapons Removal and Abatement office awards grants to MAG America to clear land for landmine affected communities around the world. Learn more about WRA and Laos here.