This report is intended to provide an update of the situation over the past four months related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the key results of Project RENEW’s humanitarian work in Quang Tri Province in 2019.
Vietnam’s first known case of COVID-19 was reported on 23 January 2020. In the subsequent weeks after the Lunar New Year holidays, the country experienced an unprecedented disruption.
In response to the Quang Tri Province authorities’ guidelines to help diminish the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, in February and March, Project RENEW and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) applied health and safety restrictions to our Explosive Ordnance Survey and Clearance teams. Survey and clearance operators were required to keep a distance from each other while working in the fields, wear face masks and practice hygienic etiquette. The other two components, Victim Assistance/Disability Support and Mine Risk Education, were partly suspended because schools were closed and large gatherings were not allowed.
From 01 to 19 April, Project RENEW had to suspend all its work following the Prime Minister’s decision to practice social distancing nationwide. During this period, RENEW-NPA’s field staff stayed at home while desk officers were allowed to work from home. To join hands with the local authorities in the fight against COVID-19, on 6 April 2020, RENEW-NPA staff donated hand sanitizers, liquid hand soaps, face masks, and thermometers to the Quang Tri Department of Health. The contribution was worth $1,700 USD.
On 20 April, Project RENEW resumed the important work to keep people safe from another virus that has infected Vietnam since the end of the war, and that is the scourge of Explosive Ordnance (EO). All of our staff and their families were safe during the two-week lockdown. Quang Tri Province hasn’t had any cases of COVID-19.
As of 18 May, Vietnam has successfully controlled the COVID-19 outbreak as during the past 32 days no cases of community transmission were reported. Vietnam’s COVID-19 tally stands at 320 including 260 patients who have recovered and 60 under treatment. Foreign ambassadors including the U.S., Norway, and Italy have hailed Vietnam’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Summary of Project Activities and Results in 2019
2019 marked another successful year of Project RENEW’s comprehensive mine action model in Quang Tri Province. The following table indicated three major pillars of humanitarian mine action work being managed and implemented by Project RENEW Coordination Office.
Mine Risk Education
Local children continued to be the priority target of Project RENEW’s Mine Risk Education program with funding from Irish Aid through the Irish Embassy in Viet Nam. As a result, over 39,000 schoolchildren, 51% of them schoolgirls, participated in different mine risk education sessions organized by Project RENEW and local Youth Unions with the aim of raising their awareness of EO risks and equipping them with safe behavior guidance.
With persistent exposure to EO safety messages, children, as well as adults in Quang Tri, have become the “eyes and ears” of our mobile teams, by providing lifesaving, accurate information about locations of UXO for timely and safe removal.
The above chart shows that deaths and injuries related to EO have been drastically reduced during recent years. In 2018 and 2019, there were zero accidents in Quang Tri – the first time since the end of the war.
2019 also marked the initial replication of Project RENEW’s Mine Risk Education best practices in Quang Ngai Province in partnership with Quang Ngai Red Cross Association. The objective of the pilot MRE project is to raise awareness of local people of ERW risks and provide them with safety guidance. The project was implemented in Ba To District, one of the six mountainous districts of Quang Ngai Province, with majority of the population being the H’re ethnic group.
Victim Assistance / Disability Support
Project RENEW’s Victim Assistance and Disability Support Program continued to assist victims and people with disabilities whose living conditions are less fortunate than others.
The Prosthetics and Orthotics outreach mobile program examined and fitted 286 persons with disabilities with artificial limbs and other devices to help them restore their mobility and integrate into society. Twenty-five families with disabled members were provided with breeding cows to raise in order to generate extra income. Forty-five blind people and other disabled persons in need of employment took part in the vocational training course on how to make incense and brooms to earn an independent income. In partnership with the Quang Tri Disabled Persons Organization, 1,002 persons with disabilities (47% of them women with disabilities) have improved their knowledge of disability rights and pro-disabled policies through 27 public information sessions held in 27 communes of Quang Tri Province. These results wouldn’t have been possible without continuing support from Irish Aid through the Irish Embassy in Viet Nam, and private donors through FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, other foundations, and individuals.
Explosive Ordnance Survey and Clearance
In 2019, Project RENEW and international partner Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) continued our UXO technical survey operations in Quang Tri Province as part of the integrated survey and clearance project funded by the U.S. Department of State. In this process, RENEW-NPA focuses on technical survey to define and map out Confirmed Hazardous Areas which are passed on to Mines Advisory Group and PeaceTrees Vietnam for clearance under the coordination of the Quang Tri Mine Action Center.
As a result, RENEW-NPA’s Technical Survey teams defined and mapped out 162 Confirmed Hazardous Areas consisting of 147 million square meters that need clearance. Under DFID’s funding, two Battle Area Clearance teams cleaned up over 1.8 million square meters in Hai Lang District. Information of the EO discoveries reported by the local people had enabled RENEW-NPA’s mobile teams to conduct 663 Explosive Ordnance Disposal tasks. A total of 10,847 explosive remnants of war had been found and safely destroyed during technical survey and clearance operation in 2019.
- From July to August 2019, an external evaluation was conducted by the Hanoi-based SMART Ad Consulting Company for Project RENEW’s Mine Risk Education and Victim Assistance/Disability Support programs under the funding of Irish Aid during 2015-2019. According to the evaluation report, Project RENEW’s MRE and VA/DA interventions had made practical contributions to the efforts of addressing the war consequences and assisting persons with disabilities. RENEW had created a strong engagement among the project implementing partners at provincial and district levels including Youth Union, Disabled Persons Organizations, and the Blind Associations. The report recommended replication of Project RENEW’s MRE and VA/DS in other provinces still plagued with unexploded ordnance.
- From 27 to 29 August 2019, Quang Tri Province hosted the second Regional Cluster Munitions Remnants Survey workshop with the participation of governmental and NGO mine action stakeholders from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The workshop was to identify best practice in cluster munitions remnants survey in South East Asia, to better assist the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam to address the severe scope of cluster munition contamination present in the region and allow them for better planning of their clearance resources.
- By the end of 2019, Project RENEW had finalized a new strategic plan for our operations in the period of 2020-2025. The strategy reflects Project RENEW’s endorsement and support of the provincial government’s goal of making Quang Tri safe from the impact of explosive ordnance by 2025. It can be downloaded here.