Deputy Director of Xieng khouang Provincial Department of Labour and Social Welfare Vilaphong Khuthavongsay, together with delegations of the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO Lao) and the United Nations Development Programme jointly handed over sports equipment to five schools located in Paek, Kham and Phoukoud districts in Xieng Khuang Province as part of the Lao PDR ‘Safe Grounds Project’.
The project initially focuses on the communities in Xieng Khuang Province as it ranks second among the nine provinces most severely impacted by UXOs. From 1996 until 2019, UXO Lao has released more than 44,000 hectares of land including more than 38,000 hectares for agricultural use and destroyed more than 1.6 million UXOs, of which, 840,000 were sub-munitions, reaching over 220,000 beneficiaries.
As for the essential Mine-Risk Education activities (MRE), approximately 3.8 million individuals were educated in the hazards associated with UXO’s.
The overall objective of the project is to provide recreational equipment to 5 schools in Xieng Khuang Province where UXO clearance has previously been conducted by UXO Lao with the funding support from New Zealand.
The sports equipment being distributed include football, petanque, sepak takraw, volleyball and basketball. The provision of equipment for these popular recreational activities will not only boost morale in the villages for both children and adults, but also enhance the awareness of the UXO issue in the Lao PDR for local communities (SDG 18), along with other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“On behalf of the beneficiary schools, I would like to once again thank UNDP and UXO Lao for supporting us in the delivery of these sporting gears. It may appear insignificant, but the impact it has on these youth is gratifying,” remarked Mr. Vilaphong.
The mentioned project is aligned with the priorities of the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres’ five-year ‘Safe Ground Campaign’, namely in demonstrating that the Lao PDR UXO Sector is addressing the integrated nature of challenges, and cuts across the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus.
The project has been implemented with participation of affected communities, it exhibited the integrated nature of solutions needed to overcome the UXO-related challenges, and thus demonstrated that the Lao PDR UXO Sector is building the Humanitarian, Development and Peace relationship.
Additionally, through promotion and participation and both the National and International level, the project will raise awareness among the stakeholders on the developmental angle of the UN Strategy on Mine Action 2019-2023, and its linkage to achievement of the SDGs, specifically SDG18.
Provincial Coordinator of UXO Lao Kingphet Phimmavong added, “This school fields used to be filled with UXOs, and I am beyond delighted to witness the joy of these students today, confident to run and play without fear”.
The UN’s Safe Ground Campaign aims to turn UXO/mine contaminated areas into playing fields by leveraging partnerships with Member States, donors, civil society, sport federations and the private sector, to clear existing playing fields of UXO/mine contamination, and identify new areas that can become sports facilities, which will be used to bring communities together, to raise awareness about victims of war and act as a catalyst to raise funds for victim/survivor assistance.
Source: Lao News Agency