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Mine Detection Dog "Rico" Visits Capitol Hill, Highlights the Challenges Millions Face Due to Landmines

·3 min read

"Demining in Cambodia" Event Hosted by the Ambassador of Cambodia to the U.S.

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Mine Detection Dog Rico was the star guest at an event hosted by H.E. Keo Chhea, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the U.S., on Capitol Hill yesterday to highlight the ongoing problems of landmines in Cambodia and the international efforts that are going into removing them.

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United States H.E. Keo Chhea and MDD Rico, a recently retired mine detection dog who helped The Marshall Legacy Institute clear over 600,000 square meters of land in Bosnia & Herzegovina
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United States H.E. Keo Chhea and MDD Rico, a recently retired mine detection dog who helped The Marshall Legacy Institute clear over 600,000 square meters of land in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.  Despite ongoing demining operations conducted since 1979, it is estimated that up to 7 million landmines and other UXO remain in Cambodia.  From 1979 to 2021, nearly 65,000 people were killed or injured by landmines.  There are approximately 40,000 amputees in Cambodia due to landmines.

Moderating the event, Dr. Suzanne Fiederlein, Ph.D., of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR), spoke of the tremendous progress that has been made in the last 30 years.  However, "The largest challenge we face to continue and complete this work is funding."

Hosting the event, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United States H.E. Keo Chhea, described how the task to remove landmines from Cambodia was huge.  Landmines and other unexploded devices are "a continuing threat to farmers, to children, to transportation, to development—even to wildlife."  Ambassador Keo Chhea continued, "I am grateful for the support of the United Nations and friendly governments like the United States.  Cambodian citizens themselves have answered Prime Minister Hun Sen's fundraising drive to hasten demining efforts by contributing over US$20 million since July 1."

Matthew Hovell, Head of Region for South East Asia at The Halo Trust, expressed thanks to the U.S. government and taxpayers for their support.  "We have seen the breathtaking transformation of villages that have been cleared of landmines, turning into thriving communities that are living, farming, trading and learning in safety.  This has only been possible due to the support of the United States, HALO's lead donor."  But there is considerable work to be done, with over 700 km2 still to be cleared.  "I congratulate the Cambodian Government on their ambitious plan to be mine free by 2025 but would ask donors to stay the course considering the scale of the challenge remaining. This work remains both life changing and life saving," he added.

Alex Pate of Mines Advisory Group said, "In 2021 alone, MAG released 17 million square meters of land, returning it to the communities it belongs to, and destroying over 8,000 UXOs.  That amounts to 45,000 square meters of land released per day.  I am grateful to our partners, the Government of Cambodia, and our donors here in Washington DC."

Charlie Richter, APOPO U.S. Director, expressed thanks to Ambassador Keo Chhea and all partner organizations.  "The Cambodian Mine Action Authority and Cambodian Mine Action Center have been extremely effective partners, open to APOPO's mine detection animal and other innovations and committed to a mine free Cambodia. APOPO hopes more international funding will come to the country to help the country strive towards a mine free declaration."

Elise Becker, Executive Director of The Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI), described the incredible work of Mine Detection Dogs (MDDs), and introduced Rico, a recently retired landmine detection dog.  Together with then handler Kenan, Rico contributed to the clearance of more than 600,000 square meters of land in Bosnia & Herzegovina during their six years together.  He now serves as MLI's Canine Ambassador.

A video providing more information on landmines and the Cambodia Government's demining program can be viewed here.  https://lion.box.com/s/kt25lemv0tbacjv2j3rqp2qzqfncn4ba

 

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SOURCE The Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia