Cluster bombs kill another child as nations reach accord

International delegates meeting in Laos – the most heavily bombed nation on earth as a result of a huge US bombing campaign during the Vietnam war, and where 80 million landmines still cause death and tragedy on a near-daily basis – have agreed on a new plan to help rid the world of cluster munitions. The agreement came as a 10-year-old Laotian girl was killed by a cluster bomb.

In what campaigners say represents a major shift in international opinion towards the menace of cluster munitions, more than 100 countries have signed a 66-point plan to destroy stockpiles, de-mine those areas still affected by the weapons and provide extra help for victims.

"This is very important. It's a significant sea change in the global perception of cluster munitions," said Conor Fortune, of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC), an international organisation that campaigns against the weapons. "[While not all countries are represented here], the future use of cluster munitions would be severely condemned."

Campaigners say cluster munitions are some of the deadliest and most dangerous bombs. When dropped they break up to create dozens of deadly "bomblets" – which often fail to detonate and can lie buried for decades.

Most of the munitions littering the countryside of Laos were dropped during a huge Cold War bombing campaign when the US dropped more than two million tonnes of ordnance there as it sought to cut off supply routes for North Vietnamese forces. It is estimated that between 1964 and 1973, the US flew 580,000 bombing runs over Laos, at a rate of one every nine minutes.

What makes the bombs particularly unpleasant is that many are shaped like tennis balls and are often picked up by children, with devastating consequences. In an incident that took place during this week's meeting in the Laotian capital, Vientiane, a 10-year-old girl died and her sister was injured when an old cluster bomb exploded.

According to Dr Vanliem Bouaravong, the director general of Mittaphab Hospital in Vientiane, the two sisters, Paeng, 15, and Piou, 10, were returning from school in central Laos when the younger girl picked up a bomblet to show her sister. She then threw it to the ground, where it exploded.

Both girls were taken to the hospital in the capital, three hours away. The younger girl bled to death 30 minutes after arrival at the hospital. Her sister has severe fragmentation wounds in her neck, hand and hip.

Campaigners say 105 countries, including the UK, have signed a 2008 convention to ban the use of cluster weapons. However, the largest producers and users of the weapons, including the US, China, Russia, Israel, India, Pakistan and Brazil, have not signed and continue to use them.

A recent report by the CMC found that 74 nations still had stockpiles of cluster bombs and that 23 countries remained plagued by the presence of the ordinance.

"The UK is a key country that has destroyed more than a third of its stockpile," Mr Fortune said. "It has been one of the biggest users in the past decade, in the Balkans and Iraq, so it is important that they are destroying their stockpile."

The 66-point plan commits countries to "implement fully" obligations under the convention agreed in 2008. In particular it reduces to one year the deadline for starting to destroy stockpiles of cluster munitions and identifying all "contaminated areas".

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam