Between 1964 and 1973, during the height of the Vietnam War, more than two million tons of bombs were dropped in Laos. Up to a third of the bombs, or ordnance, discharged in the country did not explode and continue to maim and kill when disturbed. Thousands of people have been killed and injured since 1973, and more are hurt and killed each year in accidents caused by unexploded ordnance (UXO), particularly cluster bombs. Survivors often suffer severe abdominal, chest, hand, arm, and head injuries. World Education works to help UXO survivors pay for their medical costs, recover from their injuries both physically and psycho-socially, and return to a healthy, independent life in their communities. Specific initiatives include the following:
- War Victims Medical Fund (WVMF): This fund covers the cost of medical treatment for victims of UXO accidents throughout Laos. The WVMF is managed by the Departments of Health and hospital staff at the district level through a committee management structure.
- Victim Assistance Support Team (VAST): Conducting its activities in Xieng Khouang Province, VAST takes a case management approach that includes initial interviews, psycho-social assessment, care planning, monitoring, and follow-up of UXO survivors. VAST identifies highly concentrated areas of UXO survivors to determine best locations for activities and follow-up strategies, and provides livelihood support for UXO survivors through trainings in financial literacy and animal raising.
- Trauma Care Medical Capacity Development: World Education works with the Lao Ministry of Health to improve medical care in remote areas of Laos by providing training to medical staff and administrators, renovating hospitals and clinics, and providing essential equipment and materials. With these improvements, hospitals can better treat UXO survivors and people with disabilities. VAST developed a government-approved National First Aid curriculum for Village Health Volunteers; there are 6,000 Village Health Volunteers (VHV) across Laos providing basic health care and first responder emergency assistance in rural areas.