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25 Years Strong - MAG’s Commitment to saving lives and building safer futures in Vietnam

From the desk of Sarah Goring, Country Director of MAG Vietnam


After being ravaged by conflict, Vietnam has been left with the grim remnants of a war which have continued to kill and maim tens of thousands of people since it ended. For the last 25 years MAG teams have worked tirelessly to remove the threat of these potentially lethal items and teach people about the risks of living in their presence.


MAG started MAG started operations in Vietnam in 1999 in Quang Tri province. From its humble beginnings in Quang Tri with 31 staff, MAG has grown to become a trusted humanitarian mine action partner in Vietnam and the largest civil mine action organisation in the country. MAG currently employs more than 740 people in Vietnam and will be expanding slightly over the next 12 months with additional funding from the US Government.



500lb bomb found in Dong Hoi city


But MAG has seen big change not only in the size of the programme but also in terms of diversity and inclusion. From one woman employed back in 1999 and in a support role, not an operations position to today, where 29 per cent of MAG Vietnam’s employees are women. While there is still work to do, MAG has seen a real change in the stereotype that mine action is a “man’s job”. People like one of MAG’s Team Leaders, Ngoc, have worked to break these stereotypes and serve as amazing role models to other people looking to work in mine action. Ngoc has worked for MAG since 2001. She recently shared with me that she was in her early twenties when she joined MAG and was shy and nervous about whether or not she could do the job. But the professional training from MAG and her years of experience have built her confidence and she now leads a team to safely clear land in her home province of Quang Tri.


Team Leader Ngoc


MAG in Vietnam introduced community liaison teams in 2007. These teams are the eyes and ears of MAG, working with local communities and authorities to understand how the contamination and MAG’s work affect people’s lives and to be able to better target our resources to the areas in greatest need. In 2015, these teams started conducting explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) in Vietnam to raise awareness within communities of the risks and promote safe behaviours to reduce the risk of deaths and injury from explosive ordnance. MAG has delivered more than 2,800 EORE sessions with more than 46,000 people. MAG tailors the sessions to the audience and aims to reach the most at risk groups, such as children, teenagers and farmers. MAG’s community liaison staff do an amazing job at making the sessions fun and engaging so the safety messaging is remembered and people understand and use the explosive ordnance reporting hotline numbers if they do find a suspected item.



MAG staff celebrating 25 years


Since 1999, MAG Vietnam has cleared more than 250 square kilometres of contaminated land for cultivation and infrastructure construction such as housing, roads, schools, and medical facilities and found and safely destroyed over 390,000 dangerous unexploded bombs and landmines. Over the last 25 years, MAG's work in Vietnam has supported more than 1,100,000 women, men, girls and boys, bringing them safer lives and a brighter future.


I have seen so many cases of dramatic change in communities here in Vietnam where MAG has cleared land. For the last few years MAG has conducted systematic impact assessment on all of our clearance work. These have shown that not only do people feel safe to use their land as a result of clearance, more than half of surveyed villages have also reported that their income has increased. In Vietnam the contamination is so extensive that people are forced to use contaminated land out of necessity but they don’t have the freedom and choice to use the land most productively. So, it is often used for crops that require the least amount of working on the land, so they get enough income to survive but not to grow and improve their livelihoods. But after clearance, people are confident to change land use to grow more productive crops, to dig and turn over the land so the soil improves and plants grow better. People are then able to earn a better income which in turn supports their families economically and enables them to support their children through education.


MAG Community Liaison staff conducting EORE


Although estimates are available, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many items lie

beneath the land that need to be cleared. Nearly 50 years after the war, people in Quang

Binh and Quang Tri still find deadly items on their daily walks right near houses, roads, or

lands in use, and our roving teams respond to these reports every working day, protecting communities from immediate threat. Just last month, our team safely removed a 500lb bomb found within a few miles of a beach in Dong Hoi city (Quang Binh) that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. It is a stark reminder of the very real threat still present in this country. So MAG’s work in Vietnam is ongoing and the needs remain for so many communities still living with land contaminated by unexploded bombs, but substantial progress is being made and lives are being changed.


Ngoc and her team


Note: The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is a global humanitarian and advocacy organisation that finds, removes and destroys landmines, cluster munitions and unexploded bombs from places affected by conflict, established in the UK in 1989. The organization is proudly celebrating its 25th anniversary in Vietnam in 2024.

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Francis Ching
Francis Ching
29 Μαΐ

Thank you for the excellent article; I've shared it on Facebook. The work is perilous, and the commitment of the MAG staff to improve safety for everyone's living conditions should always be remembered.


Congratulations on 25 years of service. May you continue to operate safely.

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