Cam Lo Townlet, Quang Tri (10 April 2014)
It was an early morning in March when Duong Van Thanh, father of a 6-month-old daughter, was walking through his family’s garden bordered by an expanse of green rice fields. Jumping over an irrigation ditch, Thanh suddenly spied two cluster bombs that were half hidden by dirt and water.
Unafraid because he knew and understood the danger, Thanh carefully marked the location of two cluster bombs with pieces of wood he found nearby. He returned to his house, picked up his telephone, and called Project RENEW’s hotline number to report his sighting. The information was quickly passed on to RENEW’s Quick Response EOD Team #3 operating in Cam Lo District. Two hours later the team arrived at Thanh’s house. They quickly assessed the situation, marked off the site and set up a protective sandbag barrier, sealed off the area and placed sentries at intersections to block traffic. They used loudspeakers to publicly issue warnings of an impending demolition. Minutes later they destroyed the two cluster bombs with a huge explosion. After checking the area for any remnants of the ordnance, team members announced through the loudspeakers that neighborhood residents could resume normal activity – safely.
“I was shocked to discover the bombs that morning,” Thanh said. “But I was not afraid. I just followed exactly what is written on a RENEW risk education leaflet.” Thanh told RENEW’s team leader that some days earlier he had attended a risk education session conducted in his neighborhood by Project RENEW’s Youth Union collaborators. He brought the leaflet home with him, so the hotline telephone number was close at hand when he needed it.
According to Team Leader Le Xuan Tung, Project RENEW will deploy a cluster munitions remnants survey (CMRS) team in the area following the sighting of the two cluster bombs. The survey team will determine the exact nature and extent of other UXO contamination in the area, and take any necessary steps to make people safe.
While the cleanup of wartime debris may continue for years, it is of utmost importance that children and adults be constantly educated about UXO risks and provided with guidance on safe behavior when they encounter UXO.
Residents like Duong Van Thanh, who have learned about the UXO danger and thus are knowledgeable and confident, and not afraid, are truly the “eyes and ears” of RENEW’s EOD teams. With information of the kind relayed by Thanh, the EOD teams know exactly what type of ordnance has been found and where it is located. They waste no time searching. They can prioritize their responses and take direct action within a few hours.
Project RENEW has adopted this key strategy based on years of experience: give people the knowledge and the tools to stay safe, to not be afraid, and to know how to report ordnance as they find it. A trained and professional response team will be there within hours and the problem will be neutralized. People can resume normal activities, and go about their lives in safety.
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