Korea hands over equipment worth USD 1M to support Unit 58's UXO clearance work

The Government of Korea has been an invaluable partner for the UXO sector in Lao PDR and contributed USD 16.87 million since 2015.

UNDP | Vientiane | Updated: 29-02-2024 13:38 IST | Created: 29-02-2024 13:38 IST
Korea hands over equipment worth USD 1M to support Unit 58's UXO clearance work
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The Government of Korea today handed over valuable equipment worth over USD 1million, including 20 vehicles, 10 off-road motorbikes, metal detectors, generators, brush cutters, laptops, and IT equipment for 13 newly established Humanitarian Demining teams of Lao People’s Army (Unit 58). These assets will bolster Unit 58’s operations on unexploded ordnance (UXO) until 2026 and beyond. 

Over two million tons of munitions were dropped on Lao PDR during the Second Indochina War (1964-1973). This includes 270 million sub-munitions from cluster bombs, up to 30% of which may have failed to detonate. Already in 2024, there have been 6 UXO accidents, in which 10 persons were injured and 3 persons killed. Moreover, 8 out of these 13 casualties, 61%, were children. 

42 of the 46 poorest districts in the country are UXO contaminated- an obstacle to rural development in affected areas. It canlead to the loss of livestock, restricted access to land, while increasing risks of food insecurity, insufficient basic infrastructure, disability, employment shortages, and other negative socio-economic outcomes. Although progress has been made for survey and clearance, a long-term solution with national clearance capacity will be crucial for the future generations of Lao PDR. 

To ensure that the important work of UXO clearance can continue sustainably into the future, the Government of the Republic of Korea through Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) provides support for the national ownership of the Lao UXO sector through support to both the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) and   Unit 58, through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Unit 58 is the second-largest national UXO organization, after the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO Lao), playing a crucial role operating in three provinces as well as conducting roving tasks in the provinces where no other operators are operating. Clearance initiatives combined with Explosive Ordnance Risk Education have demonstrably contributed to reducing the threat.   

In his speech, the ambassador of Korea to Lao PDR emphasized the breadth of support offered by his country to Lao PDR, as well as their solidarity through empathy. He stated, “Our assistance has been made in almost all areas related to UXO, including awareness education, UXO elimination, UXO Lao's capacity building, and victim assistance. Our support has remained unchanged. My President mentioned in his summit with Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone last October that our government would continue to support the economic and social development of Lao PDR. The Korean government promised to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN countries in the spirit of “Solidarity.” Real solidarity is about sympathizing with each other’s pain, and also dreaming of the future together.” 

The Government of Korea has been an invaluable partner for the UXO sector in Lao PDR and contributed USD 16.87 million since 2015. With KOICA’s support, Unit 58 educated 53,189 people from 217 villages in explosive ordinance risk education (EORE), surveyed 1,932 ha of UXO-contaminated land and cleared UXOs in 81 ha for safer land access and productive usage. In total, 104,276 people (18,146 people from area clearance and 86,130 people from roving tasks) have benefited by Unit 58 clearance operations with KOICA’s support since 2017.  

Speaking at the opening of the training, Ms. Martine Thérer, UNDP’s Resident Representative highlighted the ongoing commitment of UNDP and the Government of Korea to the UXO sector in Lao PDR: “Once again, I express sincere gratitude to the Government of Lao PDR and the Republic of Korea for their unwavering support. UNDP remains committed to national ownership and long-term sustainability in the UXO sector, aiding the government in building national capacity. Together, we will implement our UXO project until 2026, striving to achieve national development goals and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, particularly SDG 18, Lives Safe from UXOs.” 

Unit 58, with the support of UNDP and the generous funding of the Government of Korea, reaffirmed its commitment to meeting the goals set by the 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (2021-2025) and the long-term UXO national strategic plan (SPF III) (2021-2030), helping the government fulfill its obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions and achieve Lao’s unique SDG 18: "Lives Safe from UXO”. 

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