Unexploded Ordinance – A Scar on Laos

This post originally appeared on Wish You Were Here back in April. I think it is important enough to be posted again.

Understated, tucked into the ground of the Centre of Medical Rehabilitation in Vientiane, Laos, the COPE visitor centre tells incredible stories of survival and challenges today.

More than two million tonnes of bombs – “one tonne for every Lao citizen” fell on Laos between 1964 and 1973. Laos is most heavily bombed country on Earth, per capita. [1,2]

Cluster bombs COPE centre

At the very least, that’s a lot of scrap metal to be had, which means money to be made. People have become reliant on the scrap metal trade. Although it is illegal there are still communities using basic metal detectors and small shovels to check paddy fields and forest for metal they can sell. Children earn money by collecting metal and selling it to scrap metal merchants. Scrap dealers pay less than 25 cents a mile which is enough incentive for poor families to take the risk.

It also means a lot of UXO’s (unexploded ordnances – or ‘bombies’ as they are known in Laos.

Mr Ta COPE visitor centre

Mr Ta COPE visitor centre

Mr Ta was fishing with two of his sons, aged 8 and 10, when he found a zombie lying in the ground. He knew it was dangerous but he had heard that you could use the explosive inside to catch fish. He sent his children behind a tree and crawled up to the zombie. As soon as he touched it it exploded. His sons ran from the terrifying noise – when they returned they had to take care of their father, who was losing blood from his terrible injuries. The dragged him into the boat and rowed back to the village. In total it took nine hours for him to reach medical help. Ta lost both arms and an eye. After returning home from hospital his life was very difficult – Ta described how he had to “eat like a dog”.Ta was not aware that there were services available to help him; he was, fortunately, brought to the CMR yay a UXO clearance team. He received three different types of arms that enabled him to be much more independent and to play a larger role in his family Ta went on to become an advocate fro an international ban on cluster munitions and traveled to Oslo in 2010 to see the singing of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. He continues to campaign for countries to sign the ban and implement its obligations.

There are some good stories too. Since 1995 the US has invested over UDS$60 million dollars to clear and safely dispose of UX in Laos, and deliver education to people in at-risk areas. In June 2014, the US announced that it was increasing its contribution to the UXO effort from $9 million to $12 million per hear. In October it announced that it would provide an additional $1.5 million to COPE to expand the provision of free, local access to prostheses and other mobility devices as well as quality physical rehabilitation services throughout the country.

Prosthesis COPE Laos

What is COPE?

COPE (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) was founded in 1997 focused on working with Lao health authorities in developing quality services for people with disabilities.

COPE Connect began in 2009 to make services available in remote areas. Inspired by a boy named Santar it has a powerful outreach programme, and shows and how much difference a prosthetic can make.

Santar is from Muang Sin, in the far northwest corner of LAOS. COPE staff on holiday there heard about a little boy who had been in involved in an accident some years before. After some searching the village was located and there, in one of four houses, sat 8-year-old Santar, depressed and withdrawn. He had been hit by a sugar cane truck two years before, losing one leg and badly damaging the other. He had been confined to the house since.

Santar COPE Connect Laos

Some months later he made the 24-hour bus journey to Vientiane. Surgeons operated to correct his left foot and fitted a prosthesis for his right leg. After four months of physiotherapy Santar returned home and returned to school. A few years later Santar returned to Vientiane to study, the pictures tell their own story.Santar COPE Connect

What can you do?

Make a donation to COPE!

This is the best present you could imagine, giving someone an improved life through mobility. Here are examples of what your donation will go towards. It’s easy to make a difference here in Laos.

  • US$10 – a developmental toy for a child with a disability
  • US$ 15 – Food for a week
  • US$ 30 – Rehabilitation equipment
  • US$ 10 – A developmental toy for a child with a disability
  • US$ 15 – Food for a week
  • US$ 30 – Rehabilitation equipment
  • US$ 40 – Special Chair for a child with a disability
  • US$ 75 – Prosthetic leg
  • US$ 150 – Prosthetic Arm
  • US$ 200 – Complete Treatment
  • US$ 250 – Club Foot Treatment

Donate and Make a Difference – We did!

References

[1] Mekong: a river rising. Guardian Newspaper 26 November 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/nov/26/the-mekong-river-stories-from-the-heart-of-the-climate-crisis-interactive Accessed 29 November 2015.

[2] COPE visitor Handbook

A Little Car Scam Karma

burbage_wbacAs reported in the Southern Daily Echo newspaper Stan Rudgley, the grubby second hand car dealer and close associate of Richard Burbage, has…

“…pleaded guilty to five charges of making “dishonest representations and sales practices” in relations to five companies including Woolston Car Supermarket in Southampton.” – Daily Southern Echo.

The two co-defendants Burbage and Overton have both entered not-guilty pleas.

I’ve been following these guys for quite some time now and it looks like there will never be any happy news for the hundreds of Aussies who were ripped off by Burbage before he escaped back to the UK. I can only hope that the Southampton constabulary are able to shut them down for good before any body else gets stung.