Giles Duley’s Blog – Face to Face with how landmines destroy lives
By Find A Better Way Ambassador Giles Duley.
It has been a busy few months in my role as Ambassador for Find A Better Way.
In June, I accompanied our charity’s new Chief Executive, Martin Dansey, on a whirlwind trip to the US to meet donors and trustees.
What struck me was the incredible enthusiasm of all those we met; there is a real belief among all involved in Find A Better Way that an answer to the terrible legacy of landmines can be found.
During July, I was reminded why this work was so important. Back on more familiar ground, I was working as a photographer in Laos and Vietnam while also fact-finding for Find A Better Way.
The legacy of the Vietnam War is still a major danger in the region. In Laos, the figures are hard to comprehend as, between 1965 and 1974, the US dropped 270 million cluster munitions across the country – an average of one B-52 dropping its bombs every eight minutes for nine years.
In one village I visited, over one million cluster munitions had been dropped in just one square kilometre. Meeting villagers who had lived there since the war, I was brought face to face with the reality of how UXOs destroy lives. It is not just the physical danger but the economic hardships and psychological damage that comes from living with such hidden dangers.
In Vietnam, the figures are just as shocking. Since the war, UXOs and landmines have injured over 107,000 Vietnamese civilians.
Next year it will be 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, but still there are deaths and horrific injuries every day. I met a young father who told me the heart breaking story of how, just a month before, his two young sons had found a cluster munition which they brought home, unaware of its dangers.
Whilst tampering with the bomb it exploded, killing both boys. This is yet another reminder of not just the importance of clearing unexploded bombs and landmines but also for the need of education in schools about the terrible threat these devices still pose.
It has been a busy and exhausting time, but an important reminder of how important this work is. Each day, lives are destroyed by landmines and UXOs around the world – we must strive to Find A Better Way.