Laos: living with unexploded bombs, 40 years on

Vietnam
Arms
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A woman poses at an entrance of her house next to bombs dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016. © REUTERS/Jorge Silva

After 580,344 bombing missions, 270 million bombs, 2 million tonnes of ordnance, a third of which never exploded – the US bombing of Laos left a legacy for years to come.

More than 40 years on, US bombs are still a major threat, with over half of Laotian provinces severely contaminated with unexploded ordnance. Over 20,000 people have been killed or injured by unexploded bombs since the war, many of them children.

The bombing of Laos took place between 1964 and 1973, and was part of a CIA-run operation to cut North Vietnamese supply routes and to defeat communist allies in the region.

With his visit to Laos between 5 and 8 September 2016, Barack Obama has become the first sitting president of the US to visit Laos, announcing new funding to help clear the country. But NGOs, including Legacies of War, have warned that it will take decades, and millions of dollars every year to complete the operation and to bring Laotians back to living a normal life.

An unexploded bomb dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War is seen decorating a hotel in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A bomb dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War is used to grow plants in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A man makes spoons by melting the bombs dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Mr Soud, 40, who was injured by an unexploded bomb dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War when he was 10 years old, sits in his house in the village of Kakho in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Kek, 28, who was injured five years ago, while digging for metal to sell, by an unexploded bomb dropped by US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, poses in his house in the village of Kakho in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A label is seen on a bomb dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Toui Bounmy Sidavong, 43, holds a bomb dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A boy stands in front of a house built on bombs dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A woman walks past a restaurant decorated with unexploded bombs dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang, Laos 2 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A technician from the NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) holds a trigger before destroying unexploded bombs and ordnance found in a field, that were dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, at Phaxay district in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 2 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A Buddhist monk poses next to unexploded bombs dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang in Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A girl poses at an entrance of her house next to a bomb dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Mr Soud, 40, who was injured by an unexploded bomb dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War when he was 10 years old, sits in his house in the village of Kakho in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 3 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A technician from the NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) works in a field searching for unexploded bombs that were dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, at Phaxay district in Xieng Khouang province, Laos 2 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A crater created by a bomb dropped by the US Air Force plane during the Vietnam War, is seen in Xieng Khouang, Laos 1 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

A courtyard is used as a deposit of bombs dropped by the US Air Force planes during the Vietnam War in Xieng Khouang, Laos 1 September 2016.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva