Cam Lo, 30 October 09
More than 200 young people on motorbikes, red flags flying, paraded behind a jeep mounted with loudspeakers along main roads of Cam Lo District last week to reinforce the message of safety and injury prevention from bombs, mines, and other deadly wartime ordnance. Organized by the Youth Union, the parade aimed to encourage local residents to be actively involved in community-based Mine Risk Education (MRE) activities.
From the district center the parade passed along main roads leading through all nine communes of the district, as the young people handed out leaflets to onlookers and displayed safety messages on handheld panels and broadcast them from loudspeakers. Along the way, 4,000 MRE leaflets were distributed to local people. Ms Nguyen Thi Huong, Secretary of Cam Lo District Youth Union, said the MRE parade would increase awareness among local residents’ of the need to avoid risks from explosive remnants, and encourage them to support safe disposal activities.
During the past eight months, a partnership between Project RENEW and Cam Lo District’s Youth Union has actively worked to reduce the threat of UXO explosions in contaminated areas of the district. With funding from the U.S. Department of State, this partnership has established a community reporting network (CRN) in support of EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) activities undertaken by two EOD Quick Response Teams.
These teams were deployed in June 2008 as a partnership between Project RENEW and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).
Involving key Youth Unions officials from nine communes in Cam Lo District, this MRE/CRN has brought about great community participation in ERW safety activities, resulting increased public awareness. Within the short period of time since its launch in March 2009, nearly 8,000 children and adults have been provided with MRE. More importantly, the MRE/CRN has helped establish a strong mechanism for reporting findings of ERW to the EOD teams who then go to the sites and safely remove or destroy the ordnance – which has been threatening people’s lives and livelihoods since the war ended. A total of 376 of these spot reports have been forwarded by local residents to RENEW EOD Quick Response Teams, who have gone to those sites and safely destroyed 855 items of ERW.
Cam Lo district is one of the most contaminated areas in Quang Tri province. ERW are still found on about 51% of its land. Despite great clearance efforts by local authorities, the Vietnamese army, and international NGOs, ERW continue to pose a daily threat to local people. The high level of contamination requires both field actions – such as mobile EOD response being conducted by Project RENEW/NPA EOD teams – and awareness-raising activities as well. As acknowledged by Ms Huong, it is important to keep repeating the MRE message, reinforcing it and emphasizing it again and again.