Assessing community communication needs on post-awareness campaigns in mine risk education in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR or Laos)

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Dejvongsa, Vannida
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of International Communication
Unitec Institute of Technology
Papoutsaki, Evangelia
Dodson, Giles
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Phaxay District, Xiengkhouang Province (Lao PDR)
land mines
mines (military explosives)
safety campaigns
mine risk education (MRE)
Dejvongsa, V. (2016). Assessing community communication needs on post-awareness campaigns in mine risk education in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR or Laos). An unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of International Communications, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand.
Laos has been severely impacted by unexploded ordnance (UXO), a major threat to the safety of the civilian population, with 98 percent of casualties caused by cluster bomb munitions affecting civilians. The government has started mine risk education programs, targeted at triggering behaviour change in the communities at risk by generating awareness, raising the levels of information and through education. Despite the work that these programs have done so far, research shows that persons living in high UXO infested areas still engage in behaviours predisposing risk even with the knowledge on the health risks posed by UXO. The objective of this research project was to assess the communication and information needs of the local communities in UXO contaminated areas and to contextualize these needs within the daily routines of the people through communicative and participatory location-based approaches while at the same time taking into consideration the economic imperatives. The data collection methods included non-participant observation, in-depth semi-structured interviews, communicative ecology mapping, and focus groups. Ethnographic non-participation research tools were adopted in order to study the community and better understand it in its natural setting without interfering in people’s day-to-day life. The research was conducted in Phaxay District, Xiengkhouang Province, Lao PDR. The research area was selected based on its relevance to the UXO communication needs study. Relevance was determined on the basis of previous UXO community awareness programmes and nature of the awareness programme in terms of media used as well as the frequency of UXO related accidents in the past and currently. The choice of participants was based on a number of factors including previous participation in a UXO community awareness programme and having lived in the community for more than five years. The other requirements were age, gender, occupation, and level of education. Key findings indicate that models of communication used in the community are face to face, mobile phone, newspapers, television, radio, and the internet as well as loudspeaker broadcasts. Motorbike, bicycle, pick-up truck and minibus are the common modes of transport in the village and between the villages. Information regarding UXO risk was received in various ways including mine risk education (MRE) programmes, village chief officer and family members. Children age from 6 to 10 years old would receive information about and study UXO risk and safety behaviours in one of their classes from their teacher in primary school. The Mine Advisory Group (MAG) is responsible for designing MRE contracts and implemented as per plan with the donor, contained in the MOU with the government. MAG has a pre and post evaluation form that is used to evaluate the impact of a programme every time an awareness campaign is implemented. UXO in Lao PDR is highly entangled with certain socio-economic factors making it a challenge to community members on a daily basis. Land is the primary resource in farming so high UXO contamination of land poses a risk to community members. Currently, there is no active scrap metal collection in the village. The primary aim of the mine risk education is to prevent risk behaviour while at the same time teaching community members what to do when they come across a UXO item. Several methods are used to communicate a message, with the edutainment model being key. In addition, mine risk education is carried out in the local community in different physical settings. MRE has been responsible for changing the day to day risky behaviour of the villagers. These include such practices as how to go about farming new land, burning trash in their homes and farms, and how to go about grazing their animals. The community awareness programmes caused a slowdown of scrap metal trade in the village. However, there are still instances of risky behaviour that include children playing with UXO items, and villagers moving UXO items. Additionally, villagers still take it upon themselves to determine which UXO items are worth reporting to the authorities.
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