Hải Lăng, Quảng Trị (9 May 2019) – Four leaders in Vietnam’s international community, ambassadors representing Switzerland, Norway, Canada, and New Zealand (known as the G4, Group of Four in Vietnam), on Thursday traveled to Quảng Trị Province to observe an all-woman demining team at work.
The group was made up of Ambassadors Deborah Paul (Canada), Wendy Matthews (New Zealand), Grete Løchen (Norway), and Beatrice Maser Mallor (Switzerland). Their two-day official visit was to examine firsthand the post-war situation in Quảng Trị, particularly ongoing efforts to survey and clear Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) which still endanger the lives of local people. They also reviewed other development projects funded by the G4 countries.
In Tân An Village of Hai An Commune, near Mỹ Thủy (called “Wonder Beach” by American GIs during wartime), the ambassadors met and talked with members of Project RENEW-Norwegian People’s Aid’s (RENEW-NPA) all-woman clearance team.
The team was one of two battle area clearance (BAC) teams deployed in 2018 with funding from the UK’s aid agency, the Department for International Development (DFID). One of those RENEW-NPA teams is Vietnam’s first all-woman clearance team, professionally trained and certified to clean up ERW. The contaminated land they are working on is in Hải Lăng District.
BAC Team Leader Nguyễn Thị Thủy, a 30-year-old mother of one daughter, said it was a special day for her and her team members to be able to host these women ambassadors. “It is very encouraging for us to meet these women ambassadors,” Thủy said. “Their visit motivates us so much. This highlights the important role of women in all aspects of life.”
Thủy added, “We hope they get the word out about the ERW problem in Vietnam so that we will have more support to continue our work to make Quảng Trị safe from bombs and mines.”
Since October 2018, Thủy’s all-woman BAC team has found and safely destroyed 275 dangerous ERW, including 104 cluster munitions, in the two villages of Thuận Đầu and Tây Tân An. Her team has cleared and released 500,000 m2 of safe land for the community to now use and further develop. The team’s work so far has benefitted 4,621 residents who live in these villages.
Project RENEW was established in 2001 as a joint effort between the government of Quang Tri Province and interested INGOs to “restore the environment and neutralize the effects of the war” – with the main focus on unexploded ordinance.
Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) is one of the leading organizations worldwide in humanitarian disarmament. NPA has worked in Vietnam since 2008 following the signing of an MOU with the government of Quang Tri People’s Committee to support the development of Project RENEW’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capacity. NPA’s operational footprint now covers all of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue Provinces, with an increase of assets to four Battle Area Clearance teams, one Non-Technical Survey team, four EOD teams, and 25 Technical Survey teams.