As I began reading the article for this week, Can the Mosquito Speak? by Timothy Mitchell I was reminded of a website I came across recently. Mitchell’s article reads,
“Long after the armies moved on, moreover, the battle continued to claim its victims. Al-Alamein marked the first use of land mines as a major weapon of war. It was responsible for three-quarters of the twenty-three million uncleared mines Egypt accumulated in the twentieth century, the largest number of any country in the world.”
The website I had come across during my internet surfing, which I predominantly do through StumbleUpon (if you have not used it, please do, but be warned, it may become addictive), is called peaceBOMB and is a project of the fashion/accessories company Article 22. The company has taken upon itself to make the people of Laos a top priority. By reading the information on their website and watching the short documentary they have produced on the subject, you will learn that “between 1964 and 1973 the equivalent of one B52 bomb load showered upon Laos, every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years.” It is being called the secret war in Laos, as it is unknown by much of the public, even to many officials within the US government. The continuous bombing for those nine years had more than a crippling affect to the geography of Laos. It killed many and has left a great number maimed. The problem is, that despite the ending of the Vietnam War and the dropping of the bombs, just as Mitchell’s article says of Egypt, the consequences continue. The cluster munitions remain a danger to the people of Laos, as 1 in 4 bombs did not detonate. This means that children, families, field workers are being killed or left disabled because of a war nearly 40 years ago.
Project peaceBOMB seeks to aid in the recovery of the Lao people by supporting the artisans as they repurpose the metal from the bombs in the market. Their partnership has led to the manufacturing of bracelets and other jewelry, which is then sold in the US for a profit greater than their market price, which subsidizes their income. Some of the money is also used in clearing the munitions from the land. For every (plain) bracelet bought, 3 cubic meters are cleared in Laos.
The following is a trailer for the peaceBOMB documentary.
The clearing of these cluster munitions is of vital importance to improving the state of the Lao economy. Development is impossible when people are too afraid to work the fields for fear of death or severe injury. The nine years in which the bombs fell has left the country fighting to maintain its meager existence, while prosperity is, at present, not feasible. The Lao people need to be acknowledged, as well as the fact that the US has refused to join the many countries around the world who have pledged to ban cluster munitions.
As the burden of disability creates severe roadblocks to development, so too does the burden of disease, such as diarrheal diseases. We must address the vulnerabilities of the people before we can address their need for economic reform.