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David Lamb: A Reporter Returns | The Next Generation | Doing Business in Vietnam
The Music Scene | Travel and Tourism | Landmines: War's Lingering Menace

Landmine Victim
Children 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 ground worldwide.

Some expert’s estimate that between 12-18% of bombs dropped during the war didn’t 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 a tree…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

Clear Landmines