Fifty years after the end of the Vietnam War, explosive ordnance still puts lives at risk and holds communities back. Since 1999, MAG has worked to make Vietnam safer and better able to recover.
Lý stands outside her home in Quán Ngang village, central Vietnam. Twenty-five years ago, this land was full of landmines.
The area was a U.S. base in the Vietnam War. It was heavily contaminated by landmines and other explosive ordnance.
“Many people died here because of accidents and explosions from landmines and other unexploded ordnance. My father would hear noises and run to check I was okay,” said Lý.
After MAG began operations in Vietnam in 1999, the area where Lý’s house now stands was the first area cleared by our teams. Now, several people live and work in safety on this land.
Lý used to be a farmer, a job that filled her with fear of standing on something dangerous. She joined MAG in 2001 and has worked there since then.
“I was scared at first but was trained by experienced people,” Lý said. “Everyone in my family trusts MAG and I knew the training would be good."
She still works as a deminer now and can pay for her three children to go to school with her wages.
Her hope is that MAG stays in Vietnam for as long as possible so that more land can be cleared, and more people feel safe to live and farm.
Vân (pictured right) and his younger cousin thought they had spotted a fish in a nearby river near their home in Xuân Viên village.
The item they had spotted was, in fact, a mortar. The head of the village had seen the group of young, curious boys playing with something that looked dangerous when he was out walking. Thanks to MAG’s community liaison efforts, he knew to alert MAG’s hotline number about a suspicious item.
Our team came the following day to safely remove the weapon.
Thanks to such hardworking MAG teams, dangerous items are located and safely destroyed – many of them planted half a century ago and are no less powerful now than they were during the Vietnam War.
Imagine getting soil delivered for your garden, only to find that it has a 23-inch mortar from a war that ended 50 years ago.
That’s what happened to Đông, who lives in an area of Vietnam that experienced heavy bombing, as well as ground fighting, during the war. The nearby Quang Tri Citadel was the site of an 81-day battle in 1972.
After pouring out the soil only to find an explosive weapon tumble out too, Đông called our team, who arrived to assess the item and figure out how to safely remove it.
Huy, Team Leader, coordinated his team of four deminers and a medic to assess the item. After confirming that it was safe to move, he carried it to the van where, cushioned with sandbags for safety, it would remain until the planned detonation of that day’s finds at a controlled demolition site.
Dung is a Community Liaison Officer with our team in Vietnam. She delivers explosive ordnance risk education to community members in Quang Tri province, one of the areas worst affected by aerial artillery during the Vietnam War.
The aim of these sessions is to ensure that communities living in areas contaminated by unexploded bombs better understand how to stay safe. Our teams encourage members of the community to report dangerous items, and to never touch them. During sessions, Dung will lead games and activities with villagers to reinforce safety messages, and keep people engaged.
There was heavy fighting in this area during the Vietnam War, with projectiles and other weapons used. Once the war finished and people came back to live here, many explosive items were found. There have been 12 accidents in this village alone – resulting in six deaths and nine injuries.
In Vietnam, MAG is currently working to clear this area of forest around Tân Diên village. There are 170 families living close by, and since the team started clearance work earlier this year, they have already found 13 cluster bombs and 11 other pieces of unexploded ordnance.
After clearance, the land will be handed back to the community so they can use the land and the forest for agriculture.
For many, landmines and minefields conjure up the image of a wide, empty expanse of land, clearly marked with flags to highlight danger.
However, explosive remnants of conflict are often not so obvious and easy to avoid. They are scattered throughout populated areas – in fields that farmers use to support their families, near schools where children learn, around homes where families live, and along roads that communities need. These dangerous items can also move and shift over time with landslides and flooding. Not only do mines and other explosives remain perilous long after conflict ends, their distribution is not always clear. For people living in contaminated areas, this often makes an everyday decision a terrible gamble – one farmer’s wrong step or one unguarded moment from a curious, young child can be lethal.
MAG’s teams clear such areas of landmines, cluster bombs, or other explosive remnants of war – reducing everyday threats and enabling safe recovery for communities. MAG works in Vietnam and in other communities throughout the world that are recovering from conflict, so that more children raised there can grow up without the threat of losing their limbs and lives, and with safer and brighter futures ahead of them.
For more information about our work in Vietnam, click here.