A man uses a tool to extract an old explosive ordnance from the ground in Laos

‘Bombs and mines must be removed from my village’

Injured by a landmine in 1970, Mrs. Chanh advocates for mine action and inclusion in Laos.

When she was 15, Mrs. Chanh stepped on a US-made landmine in Laos. The next day she went to the hospital, where her left leg was amputated.

For more than 50 years, Mrs. Chanh, 74, has been living with an artificial limb made by her uncle using scrap metal.

Humanity & Inclusion is working with Mrs. Chanh to provide her a new artificial limb and rehabilitation care. The organization has also given Mrs. Chanh a financial boost to help her raise cattle to generate income.

“We are celebrating the 25 years of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty this year,” says Julien Kempeneers, regional humanitarian mine action specialist for Humanity & Inclusion. “I want to underline that Victim Assistance is an obligation of the treaty and is vital for survivors, their relatives and communities. Victim Assistance comprises a vast range of activities including emergency and on-going medical care, rehabilitation, psychological and social support, facilitation of access to education, economic inclusion and more. Assistance needs lasts long after clearance operations end. A country or a region can be freed from explosive ordnances but the survivors are still there and need assistance.”

As a disability champion for Humanity & Inclusion, Mrs. Chanh shares her story and advocates for change.

"Bombs and mines must be removed from my village, so that people and younger generations can safely enter the forest and live without fear,” she explains. “I don't want anyone to go through the same experience as me.”

Weapons clearance in Laos

Laos has the highest level of cluster bomb contamination in the world. Nearly 500 square miles of land is considered to be dangerous.

Humanity & Inclusion launched its first weapons clearance operations in Laos in June 1996, removing contamination of exploded bombs, bomb fragments, explosive remnants, grenades, and other ammunitions. Deminers also detect larger, unexploded bombs—often weighing several hundred pounds—transport them to a specialized site to be safely detonated.

Since 2006, Humanity & Inclusion has decontaminated more than 1,200 acres of land in Houaphan and Savannakhet provinces. Since 2019, Humanity & Inclusion has destroyed 6,710 unexploded ordnances in Laos.

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