Recently, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UNDP in Viet Nam travelled to Quang Binh province in Central Viet Nam. The trip, which was arranged by the Viet Nam National Mine Action Center (VNMAC), was the first such high-level trip for all agencies involved since the lifting of the measures implemented by the Government of Viet Nam to successfully contain the spread COVID-19.
During the visit, Mr. Cho Han-Deog - Country Director of KOICA Viet Nam and Ms. Caitlin Wiesen - UNDP Resident Representative, saw first-hand the efforts of our joint Korea-Vietnam Mine Action Project (KVMAP) and the positive changes which the two-and-a-half years of project implementation has brought to the province still struggling with the implications from the Viet Nam War.
As we travelled through the province, it was hard to imagine the devastation and craters left by the bombardments and fighting taking place from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Still, it is very real today and children must be taught not to touch or pick up old metal items in the case it turns out to be a deadly legacy of a war which ended decades before they were born.
Explosive Ordnance Risk Education
One important element of the KVMAP is therefore to educate school pupils about the risk of unexploded ordnance, and to put all efforts into preventing them from becoming the next victim in a long tragic history of such accidents in the province. During an event at the Van Trach primary school, hosted by the local authorities and Mr. Giang Cong Bau, Deputy General Director of VNMAC, we were able to see how the project uses quiz games, drama and other activities tailored specifically to children to make them aware of the dangers still lurking in the ground around their village and ultimately to ensure they behave correctly by contacting teachers and parents in the not unlikely chance that they encounter unexploded ordnance (UXO).
Another important element of the project is to survey and clear large areas in the province, first and foremost, to remove the threat, but, secondly, also to make these available for development projects. These are necessary for continuing the positive trajectory and ensure even higher living standards, which has fortunately been a trait of modern-day history of Viet Nam. As one looks at the green pasture in Son Loc commune, Bo Trach district, where a Vietnamese military clearance team is carefully and methodically searching each square meter of the ground, it is not hard to imagine that there will soon be houses there, a communal area for the inhabitants and maybe even a health clinic and a school. Very soon children can play here, where previously most likely only livestock and the occasional farmer would dare tread.
New business opportunities on cleared land
The visit also provided an opportunity to see how villagers and the residents are already able to utilize the possibilities which newly cleared land offers. In An Ninh commune, Quang Ninh district, a local farmer, Ms. Dinh Thi Hoai Thu, and her husband demonstrated how they were able to move and expand their business raising chicks. The enclosures had previously been located right next to their village house, which limited the possibility to expand, as well as caused unsanitary conditions and much noise for them and their neighbors. On the land that had been cleared through our project and made available to them by the local government, Ms. Thu and her family have been able to invest their own resources in new buildings to raise even more chicks, expanding their operation and potential income manifold.
The final stop on the tour around Quang Binh province clearly showed the change that the project can bring to each individual beneficiary. In Quang Son commune, KOICA and UNDP Viet Nam leaders were able to meet and hear the story of Mr. Tran DinhTheu, a survivor who had lost his arm in a UXO accident about six years earlier. Through an innovative collaboration between KVMAP and a Vietnamese start-up tech company called Vulcan Augmetics (which won our Youth Co:Lab competition in 2018), he had received a very special prosthetic arm. Using advanced technology, Mr. Theu is now able to do things which previously had been very difficult if not impossible for him, including garden work and other activities to sustain his livelihood.
Direct support for those affected by COVID19
Mr. Theu and other UXO survivors from the area also received help through a targeted support package with food, masks and hand sanitizers to the more than 9,100 UXO survivors and their families identified by the project in Quang Binh, as well as the other target province, Binh Dinh. This requirement had been expressed in a rapid assessment of the needs of persons with disabilities in the face of the COVID-19 crisis and instantly turned into a direct response by VNMAC, KOICA and UNDP.
It is the prospect of clear successes like this which brought together VNMAC, KOICA and UNDP in this mine action project whereby a triangular partnership with the national mine action center gets assistance with implementing its mandate by two organizations which has development in general and the Agenda 2030 in particular at the core of their work in Vietnam.
For more information, please visit Korea-Vietnam Mine Action Project (KVMAP) website
UNDP Vietnam is part of the Safe Ground campaign - Turning Minefields into Playing Fields. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres launched the five-year Safe Ground campaign (2019 – 2023) on the 4 April 2019, the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The purpose of the Campaign, as stated by the UNSG, is to raise awareness and resources for the victims and survivors of armed conflict through the promotion of sport and of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
More here: https://mineaction.org/en/safe-ground