Handicap International in Laos: 20 years of action
On 25 November, Handicap International organised an event in Chao Anouvong park, in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to celebrate 20 years of action in the country. An opportunity to bring staff, government ministers and local authorities together, it also allowed the organisation to highlight its expertise.
A mine clearer from Handicap International's team is searching for cluster bombs in a rice field. | Sara Goldberg / Handicap International
During the evening, Handicap International also organised a photo exhibition, film screenings and a performance to underline the impact of twenty years of projects in Laos.
Weapons clearance in Laos
More than 50 years after the US Air Force dropped its first bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War, it remains the country most heavily polluted by cluster munition remnants, which have killed and maimed more than 50,000 people since 1964. Since 2006, Handicap International has cleared more than 3,500,000 sq.m. of land and destroyed some 24,000 explosive remnants of war in Laos. The organisation also raises public awareness of the dangers from these weapons and sub-munitions.
Wide range of actions
In addition to weapons clearance, Handicap International helps prevent the onset of disabilities in children under five, provides parents with information on high-risk pregnancies and raises community awareness of the stigma suffered by people with disabilities. In addition, the organisation works in schools to teach children about road safety: “Road accidents are one of the leading causes of disability in the world, and we don’t talk about them enough. The organisation launched its first road safety activities in Laos and Vietnam. Today, we’re proud to run road safety projects in 16 countries where Handicap International works,” explained Benoit Couturier, Director of Handicap International in Laos.
The organisation also helps people with disabilities to find work or to set up a micro-business and improves the case-management of people in need of rehabilitation care. It also trains disabled people’s organisations to advocate for their rights.
“I would like to thank all of our partners, particularly the Laotian government, the European Union, the Belgian and Australian aid services, USAID and other donors who help our organisation improve the lives of people with disabilities,” added Benoit Couturier. “I would also like to thank our former, current and future staff members for their commitment, expertise, sense of responsibility and determination to achieve the same goal together.”