Mine Action and Rehabilitation Projects

VVAF conducts a multitude of humanitarian projects throughout Vietnam. These projects focus on two specific areas: mine action and rehabilitation services. These projects cover a diverse array of activities, including capacity building for demining, Agent Orange and dioxin mitigation, and vocational training activities.

VVAF’s mine action and rehabilitation projects are conducted through two overarching projects. One, VVAF’s DRIVE project, works to correct the impacts of Agent Orange and dioxin in Vietnam. From 1962 through 1971, an estimated 72 million liters of herbicide containing dioxin, commonly called Agent Orange, were sprayed over Vietnam in areas south of the former demilitarized zone along the 17th parallel.

Although statistics vary tremendously based on the basis of definition used, a survey in 2006 conducted by the Vietnamese General Statistics Office (GSO) showed that around 13.5% of the population of Vietnam, or about 11 million people, have disabilities. Exposure to dioxin might result in serious health effects including blindness, poliomyelitis, deafness, brain diseases and mental disorders, blood diseases, and congenital birth defects.

The DRIVE project, at the end of its first phase, selected six provinces in which dioxin had heartily affected the citizenry. During Phase I, the project worked in 11 total provinces, selected for large numbers of war legacy veterans residing in the area, as well as significant residual concentrations of chemical contaminants identified by the Hatfield studies. The six provinces selected for Phase II were selected due to the strong commitment, continued support and leadership provided by the provincial authorities during the implementation of Phase I, which began in 2006, of DRIVE. The six provinces were categorized into two tiers of priority.

Tier one areas, in Central Vietnam, were chosen because of their proximity to the on-going contaminated hotspots. This group of provinces received higher priority, among which Da Nang was listed No 1 priority in terms of resources.

Tier Two areas, in northern Vietnam included Ninh Binh, Nam Dinh, and Thai Binh. These provinces were chosen due to their large number of people with disabilities. These are provinces with high concentrations of “legacy veterans,” former soldiers who were exposed to dioxin during military service and returned to their places of origin after the war.

Phase II was initiated with the goal to increase living standards and promote inclusion of people with disabilities, residents of dioxin hot spots areas and war legacy victims and contribute to Vietnam’s development through a cross-sectoral approach (health care, vocational training, and social inclusion). This phase has included extensive work in rehabilitation and rehabilitative training, to better serve the population of persons with disabilities in Vietnam.

Part of Phase II has included bringing Vietnamese-American students to Vietnam to work with those who have been disable by Agent Orange and dioxin. The students selected are from top universities in the US, with excellent academic records and a history of community service. These students work in a fellowship with Vietnamese organizations for six weeks providing services to the diabled in Vietnam. Most recently, a group of students was brought to Vietnam in August 2011.

VVAF’s other program currently concerns capacity building for demining in the country. This program is funded by grants from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) at the United States Department of State.

In April 2010, the Prime Minister approved the very first Vietnam National Mine Action Plan for the period of 2010-2025. Part of this plan charged the Vietnam Bomb and Mine Action Center (VBMAC) and Bomb/Mine Technology Center (BOMICEN) with coordinating mine removal activities in the country.

The goal for this project is to build capacity for VBMAC and BOMICEN, helping VBMAC to coordinate and manage the mine action in Vietnam through participating in a number of trainings taken by competent training institutions, taking study tours to model mine action centers & entities in other countries, participating in international mine action meetings and supporting Vietnam to conduct a clearance project. Most recently, VVAF helped Vietnamese government officials working on demining and landmine issues prepare for the Senior Mine Action Managers Training Course in Hanoi on September 28-29, 2011. The course touched on several topics, including priority setting, information management, and the international situation regarding landmines, ERW, and UXO. Also, in September, Vietnamese officials participated in a Land Release workshop in Cambodia. VVAF and GICHD are working on further technical workshops and activities through 2011 and beyond.

As part of this project and in addition to sending Vietnamese officials to the training courses in abroad that are sponsored fully or partially by the course organizers, VVAF, with the technical support from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) has planned to conduct a number of in-country training courses with a view to address more audiences with less expense.

Also, VVAF planned a study mission as part of this work, which aims at applying the successful operation model of mine action Centers of other countries, in planning, coordinating, implementing, allocating resource and managing the humanitarian mine action activities in Vietnam.

VVAF has also worked to support BOMICEN in developing national mine action standards and adapting international protocols and technical standards to the Vietnamese contamination situation.

In coordination with these other objectives, and using information from the previously completed Unexploded Ordinance (UXO)/Landmine Impact Survey, VVAF has also Implemented a pilot UXO and Landmine/Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) Clearance Initiative, adapting and applying international protocols and technical standards in a UXO/landmine contaminated commune in central province of Vietnam, Ha Tinh. The project was completed in February 2011. In all, VVAF cleared 20 hectares of land in the Duc Lam commune, in the Duc Tho district of the Ha Tinh province.

Prior to the capacity building program, VVAF focused on demining efforts and conducting a survey on the impact of landmines and unexploded ordinances in Vietnam.

VVAF's demining activities worked with teams from the Ministry of Defense, totalling 65 personnel. The work cleared landmines and unexploded ordinances from the Hai Le Commune of the Quang Tri Province. The project helped to clear a total of 22 hectares of land in the commune. Once the project was completed, VVAF handed the cleared land back over to the local community leaders.

The survey work conducted by VVAF was conducted in two phases. Phase I interviewed more than 10,000 villagers, mapped more than 1,400 bomb and mine areas (BMA), conducted rapid technical response to the depth of 1 meter (detecting to the depth of 5m) on 400 hectares of land and handed over to the community for productive use again.

Following the successful implementation of the Phase I, under the authorization of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Defense of Vietnam approved the Phase II expansion of the UXO/Landmine Impact Assessment and Rapid Technical Response project. With experiences gained and lessons learned from Phase I, Phase II aimed at surveying the remaining 214 communes of the 1st three provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and expanding to 803 communes of 3 more provinces of Nghe An, Thua Thien Hue and Quang Ngai. After 9 months of field implementation and after the completion of Phase II, 837 communes were surveyed. This brings a total of 1,361 communes surveyed between the two phases of the project. By the end of Phase II field period, more than 33,000 people were interviewed, more than 3,200 BMA were mapped, and more than 1,200ha of land were cleared from bomb and mines by the project.