account for 1 in every 5 casualties.
Landmines: War's Lingering Menace
The Vietnam war ended over 25 years ago, but
for many Vietnamese, the realities of the war
still linger. In the years since the fall of Saigon,
over 40,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured
by landmines and unexploded ordnance (explosives)
left behind from that conflict.
Every 22 minutes, someone around the world is
killed or maimed by a landmine. One-third of the
world's countries are littered with landmines
and the U.S. State Department estimates that 60
to 75 million landmines remain unexploded in the
Some experts estimate that between 12-18%
of bombs dropped during the war didnt explode
on impact. Unexploded ordnance and buried landmines
pose an ongoing and daily threat to the people
of Vietnam, particularly in the Demilitarized
Zone, the DMZ, which once separated
North and South Vietnam. These munitions continue
to inflict almost weekly injury and death on the
farmers and innocent children of small villages
like those in Quang Tri Province. Entire families
suffer when the breadwinners of their families
are incapacitated or killed by rogue explosives.
After heavy rains or plowing, children wander
through fields collecting unexploded munitions
like toys, oblivious to their lethal power. Poverty
and starvation now compound the problem, as farmers
let lands go fallow rather than risk hitting a
rogue mine while harvesting their fields.
The problem places a burden on the government
as well while it costs only $3.00 to lay
a landmine it costs as much as $1,000 to remove
one. In a cruel, ironic twist, some speculate
the process of digging up the mines exposes leftover
deposits of Agent Orange, a deadly toxic chemical,
which U.S. forces used to defoliate trees during
the war. The chemical makes its way from the soil
to the water and eventually poisons a whole new
generation of Vietnamese.
While the problems are grim, there is good news:
several humanitarian agencies and private organizations
have formed to increase education and awareness
of the problem and to raise funds to help victims
and to de-mine the fields and rice paddies. Groups
like the grassroots PeaceTrees Vietnam are working
alongside the Vietnamese people to reverse the
destructive consequences of the war in Vietnam
through healing, reconciliation and mutual cooperation.
Through the support of donors and volunteers,
PeaceTrees Vietnam and other like-minded organizations,
sponsor the clearance of landmines and unexploded
ordnance and conducts environmental and community
restoration projects, such as reforestation, landmine
safety education centers for children and school
renovation or resettlement activities. The
most meaningful part of this work is, for me,
the opportunity to help bring hope to the kids
of Quang Tri Province. It is truly wondrous to
behold the healing that is taking place as Americans
and Vietnamese work together on a peaceful future.
Chuck Meadows, Executive Director PeaceTrees Vietnam
and Vietnam veteran.
To date PeaceTrees Vietnam, whose slogan is Plant
where a mine used to be, has
removed over 1,500 ordnance items and planted
over 8,000 trees.
For more information on landmines:
Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation
Peace Trees Vietnam
International Campaign to Ban Landmines