The USA dropped more bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War than all the bombs combined, dropped by every country for the entire duration of World War II. And the USA were not even at war with Laos, Laos was neutral.
From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.
To make things worse, the types of bombs dropped are known as cluster bombs. Bombs that open mid flight to release smaller bombs within it, killing indiscriminately. And of these bombs, it is estimated that 30%, some 80 million, are still in the Laos farms and countryside waiting to explode.
In a country that is so poor, the collection of scrap metal is the only source on income for many families to survive. With dealers paying between 10 and 20 cents for a kilo of metal, it is enough for people, even children, to take the risk with cheap metal detectors.
In addition, many bombs have gone off caused by the heat from the in-ground ‘ovens’ in family homes, killing and injuring at random.
The COPE visitors centre in the Laos capital of Vientiane exhibits a graphic display of the horrors that the Laos people have had to endure, and still live with, some forty years after a war in which they were not even involved.
So, what does COPE do?
COPE is now a local not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) and provincial rehabilitation centres to provide access to orthotic/prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services, including Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.
Basically, they provide arms and legs to victims.
The long-term vision of COPE is to become a locally-staffed organization that covers the cost of mobility devices and rehabilitation for people in Lao PDR who cannot afford it.
The Kindness of Strangers were so impressed with the information at the Visitors Centre and the positive essential work being done, we felt we had to donate and decided to give US$500 of your money. Although COPE relies on donation, it also gains some funding by the Australian government and the Laos government. However, with the problem as big as it is, it will take a lot more money and many more years before Laos will ever be safe to roam freely.
If you would like to donate further, you can support the cost of a prosthetic leg for just US$75. Please click through to this link to find out more.
SOME STATISTICS TO REMEMBER:
- Estimated number of sub-munitions (bombies) from cluster bombs dropped over Lao PDR between 1964 and 1973.
2 million tons
- Estimated ordnance dropped on Lao PDR between 1964 and 1973
- Estimated number of bombing missions flown over Lao PDR between 1964 and 1973
- Estimated failure rate of sub-munitions under ideal conditions.
- Estimated number of sub-munitions that failed to explode.
- Estimated number of unexploded sub-munitions destroyed by UXO LAO from 1996 to December 2009.
- Estimated number of new casualties from UXO incidents every year in Lao PDR