Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Clearance

What is Unexploded Ordnance and why is it a threat?

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) are explosive weapons (bombs, cluster muntions, shells/ artillery projectiles, grenades, missiles, etc.) that did not explode when they were fired or dropped and still pose a risk of detonation, even many decades after they were used or discarded.  This category is broad and the destructive capacity of each of these weapons types vary.  However, many of them were designed to have a large effective/ killing radius so their effect on individuals who come in contact with them is disastrous.  Cluster Munitions are a common type of UXO that MAG faces in many countries, including Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Lebanon.  These are larger bombs or artillery projectiles that contain 10s or 100s of explosive sub-munitions.  The Cluster Munitions are designed to separate in mid-air scattering their sub-munitions oer an area of ground.  As many as 30% of the sub-munitions may not explode on impact with the ground, leaving deadly contamination in the area. A major problem with unexploded ordnance is that over the years the detonator and main charge deteriorate, frequently making them more sensitive to disturbance, and therefore, more dangerous to handle.  Individuals who may tamper with the item either to remove it from land to allow the land to be used productively for farming and construction, or to access scrap metal put themselves in extreme danger.   

How MAG Helps Eliminate This Threat: Talking to Communities and Prioritization of Tasks

In order to develop a clear understanding of the problems faced by conflict-affected communities, MAG

goes directly to the source. Through liaison with villagers, authorities, hospitals, governments, aid agencies and other partners, MAG is able to prioritize its work based on the needs of affected communities.  This is the same process used for both landmine clearance and unexploded ordnance clearance.For this, MAG utilizes a capacity of its own invention: what we call Community Liaison (CL) teams. CL teams map the need for and anticipated impact of UXO clearance in close participation with the beneficiaries and, after conveying the data to MAG's technical teams, the appropriate response can take shape. After MAG CL teams collect vital information to support and guide the clearance process, MAG can then prioritize clearance tasks, ensuring the higher impact, more urgent tasks are conducted first. Data collected includes (1) where is the contamination, (2) what are the communities' development plans or priorities, (3) what are the communities priorities for clearance, and (4) what are the intended post-clearance land use. 

Battle Area Clearance

Clearance is conducted by the same 15-person mine action teams that conduct landmine clearance and follows the same prioritaztion process.  However, the follow very different drills and use different tools when they are conducting BAC.  For example, it is safe for the team to walk over the contaminated group whilst conducting UXO clearance as UXO are not pressure activated, carefully avoiding stepping on, or disturbing any surface items.  Teams usually first walk the area, locating and removing all surface items before going over the area again with detectors to search for buried items.  The detectors used often differ from those used for landmine clearance, or are the same but with the detection sensitivity turned down, as the buried UXO that are being searched for have signficantly more metal content than mines and, therefore, are more easily detected.  The ability to use detectors with lower detection sensitivity also means that less metal contamination is detected (small metal fragments and scrap are not detected) which helps increase the clearance rates. 

Roving Teams

In addition to the prioritized clearing and releasing of land, MAG typically employs roving teams to address items found and reported in communities.  These roving teams are small, usually around 5 people in size.  They work from a list, collated from CL visit information and information from other sources such as police and national authorities of known, reported items to remove.  Prioritization is based on the number and types of items and their proximity to populated or trafficked areas.  These items are then removed for bulk demolition or destroyed on site.  By employing roving teams, MAG can provide for the safety of the population as items are discovered while still systematically clearing and releasing land for development.