During the secret war between 1964 and 1973, US forces dropped 1.36 million tons of bombs on Laos, about the equivalent of all the bombs dropped during World War II combined. Many of these were clustermunitions, of which 266 million pieces still lie undetonated in the Lao countryside, causing approximately one fatality or serious injury each day. Add to that the many remnants of war such as landmines, artillery shells, grenades and so on. This unexploded ordnance, known as UXO, pollutes farmland and make working these fields extremely hazardous. UXO Lao has been working with international aid organizations since 1996 to clean up these munitions. They detect and disable these explosives to make Laos safer.
While the combat in Afghanistan has been well covered from a military perspective, the fact that communities still struggle through the turmoil is often overlooked. In Kabul, the markets are bustling. Moneychangers do their business with greasy wads of Afghani in their hands. Burka-clad women still float anonymously through the streets. Food vendors stlll grill delicious chicken. But the reminders of war are everywhere. Bullet holes in buildings, shrapnel-peppered cars, craters in the hills, amputees — they all make up the fabric of modern day Kabul.
In early 2010, Bangkok was practically closed down by anti-government protestors named Redshirts. Fighting broke out between national security forces and the Redshirts. In the lulls between the fighting, what goes on in and around the encampments and govenment-secured sites in the heart of Bangkok? Boredom is widespread — everyone is waiting for the next conflict, securing their respective areas. In the meantime, both sides read, eat and nap.
Afghanistan is a war torn country. The fighting between various fractions and countries have been going on since the late '70s. War victims, both military and civilian, are numerous. Large quantities of mines were dispersed all over Afghanistan by different armies. No one knows where and how many there are exactly. Hospitals and other care facilities have completely collapsed due to war, unrest and mismanagement. The ICRC (Red Cross) has been working in Pakistan and Afghanistan for over 30 years to provide care for Afghans. Their orthopedic centers are specifically set up to care for amputees and other people with mobility impairments. These facilities are essentially factories to help as many people as possible with a custom-made prosthetic/orthosis.
The political situation in Myanmar has been difficult for nearly 60 years. For tourism today, the country very difficult to access. Most areas remain off-limits to foreigners, and armed insurgencies flare up in just about every province outside the "safe zone" in central Myanmar. As the second most repressive nation after North Korea, the Myanmar government does its best to keep foreign visitors in the dark about what goes on in the country. Even during a relatively minor incident such as a fire in a Yangon market, foreign visitors were kept away from the area. Hotel owners and the police tried to keep tourists and other foreigners indoors and away from the turmoil surrounding the site. Meanwhile, in the streets around the fire, life went on as it always did.
Pakistan is an interesting, polarizing country. Situated between hostile giant India and war-torn Afghanistan, they are the front line of the war on terror. Their reputation in the West isn't one many Pakistanis agree with. But they are a proud nation, with many things to offer. Between warring extremist fractions and widespread corruption, for many Pakistani it's hard to make a living for themselves and their families.