The following editorial was broadcast on the Voice of America on December 8, 2009.
Education And Mine Clearance in Laos
U.S. Ambassador to Laos Ravic Huso and Deputy Governor of Khammouane Province Oday Sudaphon visited 3 Laotian schools in November that are receiving support from the Humpty Dumpty Institute. Established in 1998, the Humpty Dumpty Institute, or HDI, is a non-governmental organization that forges public-private sector partnerships to find creative solutions to difficult international problems.
Thanks to a two-year $5.86 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, HDI is currently assisting 13,000 students in 110 schools and villages of the Mahaxy, Boualapha, and Ngommalat districts in Khammouane Province, Laos. The HDI project is carried out by two local non-governmental organization partners, International Relief and Development (IRD) and the Mines Advisory Group, also known as MAG.
The first part of the program involves providing food to students. Since 2006, 1.3 million nutritious mid-morning snacks of corn soy blend and more than 45,000 take-home rations have been distributed to the children and teachers who maintain a monthly school attendance rate of 80 percent. The food for this program has been donated by the US Department of Agriculture. As a result of this school-feeding program, school enrollment is up 21 percent for girls and 13 percent for boys.
In addition, during the first year of the project implementation, in 2007, MAG removed more than 2,220 items of unexploded ordnance and cleared approximately 100,000 square meters of land and roads. This land is now safe for agriculture and travel. During the second year, an additional 100,000 square meters of land will be cleared.
The project is also producing results that will last well beyond the life of the project itself. Over 300 teachers have received training so far, with another 150 teachers scheduled for training. During the first year, school vegetable gardens have been planted at 50 schools and 60 more gardens will be planted during the second year. School rehabilitation projects have been undertaken in 50 schools so far, and another 60 are planned. Health-education programs were implemented in 49 schools during year one with another 60 planned for year two. By the end of the second year, school kits, including pencils and notebooks, will have been distributed to 110 schools.
The U.S. is committed to helping Laos end the threat posed by unexploded ordnance and improve education for Laotian children.
To learn more about HDI’s international programs, please visit www.thehdi.org