Legacies of War is the leading U.S.-based educational and advocacy organization working to address the impact of conflict in Laos during the Vietnam War-era, including removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO). We raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing of Laos, provide space for healing the wounds of war, and create greater hope for a future of peace. We are not a direct service or aid organization, nor do we have local offices in Laos. From Washington, D.C., we engage and establish relationships with governments, civil society and individuals, especially from the Lao diaspora, to raise awareness and increase financial support for clearance of UXO in Laos. We work directly with key decision-makers in the U.S. government – including Congress and the Administration – and with the private sector and media outlets to provide these influential groups with compelling information and analysis. We serve as a convener and organizer of partner organizations and individuals seeking to resolve the UXO problem in Laos.
Our work has led to tenfold increase of U.S. funding for UXO clearance and victim assistance in Laos, from $3M in 2008 to $30M in 2017. In bringing greater attention and increasing resources, we’ve helped to make a real impact on the ground in Laos: more land being cleared, lives being saved and additional care and services available for the approximately 12,000 UXO victims living in Laos.
During the Vietnam War-era, more than two million tons of unexploded ordnance were dropped on Laos. An estimated 30 percent of the ordnance did not explode on impact, leaving at least one third of the land across all 17 provinces contaminated by these deadly tennis ball-sized weapons. The Lao Government and United Nations Development Program (UNDP), have determined that UXO contaminates 41 out of the 46 poorest districts in Laos and remains an obstacle for carrying out its national development plans. The threat of deadly unexploded ordnance limits Laotian people’s ability to cultivate enough land for food and to maintain secure livelihoods, exacerbating the nation’s extreme poverty.
The UXO problem in Laos has persisted for far too long. Too many innocent lives have been lost. Too many farmers and children have been left disabled, their lives forever changed. But it is not too late to stop this senseless suffering. We’ve already proven positive change is possible.