Int’l Project Eliminates War Effects in Vietnam
Over nearly 40 years since Vietnam’s reunification in 1975, more than 140,000 people have been killed or injured by explosive remnants of war (ERW). Project Renew, a partnership between the Quang Tri provincial administration and international organizations is developing to end that deadly legacy in the most contaminated area in the country. A VOV reporter interviewed Chuck Searcy, the project’s advisor, about its results in Vietnam.
Chuck Searcy How long has Project Renew been in operation in Vietnam and what is its aim?
Project Renew started in August 2001? So, it has been in operation in Vietnam for over ten years.
The aim of Project Renew is to demonstrate how best to manage the resources available for dealing with the problems of bombs and mines and consequences of the war that still affect families in Quang Tri province and how to comprehensively manage the program and integrate the resources that are available, the resources from foreign countries, donors and veterans organizations and the resources available in Vietnam from the provincial administration, the Women Union, the Youth Union, the health services and many others, so it’s the way to attack the problem to try to make Vietnam safe.
We bring together the resources to deal with the problems of bombs and mines to avoid accidents from explosive remnants of war in the country, to prevent the tragedies that occur from these explosions, and when accidents do happen, we try to help the people immediately with medical treatment to recover and return to a normal life.
Did the project receive any help from the US and Vietnamese governments?
Project Renew has fortunately received support from the Vietnamese and US governments for many years. From the beginning of the project, we have received funding from the US Department of State. The Vietnamese government has been very generous in providing in-kind support, services, and support mechanisms. We have also received assistance from other governments in Norway, Thailand, Japan and other countries.
What about the local people and authorities? Did you receive help from them?
Local people in Quang Tri province are really the key to the project’s success. Without the local ownership, local management, local policy guidance and decision making, the project would not belong to the people and therefore would not be successful for a long-term basis. The local involvement has been focused on the nature of the problem, specifically how to deal with the problems to make people’s lives better. We don’t have a lot of outsiders coming in telling Vietnamese how they should deal with the problems. The Vietnamese are explaining what needs to be done and how we can work together. So we bring some resources and efforts and we work with the Vietnamese in partnership. That’s real team work.
Can you elaborate on some of the project’s achievements?
The main achievements of Project Renew is the number of accidents, injuries and deaths has decreased over the last decade. When the project began, there were 40 or 50 accidents a year. In the last couple of years, there have been only about 10 accidents annually. And remember not only Project Renew is doing this but other NGOs and Vietnamese projects are also in operation to eliminate the problems. At the same time, there is greater awareness among the local people of the problems and that is really necessary because if they understand the danger, they can avoid accidents and injuries. And in fact they are now an integral part of Project Renew. The local people want to find the cluster and grenades then report to the teams who help remove or destroy the ordnance.
Did you face any difficulties during your implementation of the project?
The only difficulty that we’ve had over the years is, of course, the limited funding resources. The governments have spent very little money cleaning up the problems left behind in Vietnam 40 years ago. We appreciate the governments’ assistance, but it’s not really enough.
What are Project Renew’s future plans?
In the future, we want to export this model to other areas of Vietnam as a turnkey operation that can be used by other organizations. The national steering committee begins to develop their long-term strategy. They can use Project Renew model as a way to introduce life-saving measures into other provinces. (vov.vn July 27)