In an effort to decrease the number of children who are injured annually in Vietnam as a result of unexploded landmines and other war-era devices, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has teamed up with the Vietnamese government to launch an interactive smartphone app that helps children identify buried weapons and report them to proper authorities. Designed for children ages 8-12, it’s the first such app to be offered in the Vietnamese language and complements classroom lessons being taught in parts of the country where buried munitions continue to pose a risk to children. Children will access the game on their family’s smartphone, with oversight and participation by parents and teachers.

“In the past, Vietnamese children have learned about the dangers of buried landmines in the classroom,” explained CRS program manager Yen Ta. “However, this new technology reinforces these lessons in a way that’s more relevant to older children who might learn more readily on phones.”

By undertaking a series of challenges and simulations on their device, children learn to identify dangerous items and how to report what they find to authorities.

“It’s crucial that this new technology allows us to reach students in middle school grades because older children and teenagers are also vulnerable,” Yen Ta said. “We see 90% of injuries happening to older boys who are trying to help their families farm land that hasn’t been cleared or supplement the family’s income by collecting scrap metal to resell.”

To make the learning interactive, children in participating provinces will take part in classroom-based competitions for app downloads and number of games completed per device.

The wider mine-risk education project, which is being funded by the United States Department of State, will reach 400,000 children and 12,000 teachers across Vietnam.

Md. Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy, Deputy Director of Quang Tri province’s Department of Education and Training, said “It's critical to provide mine risk education for students to prevent accidents. We appreciate this MRE Play app developed by CRS, as it’s a new education tool which is suitable and appealing to students. It will help them remember information.”

CRS has been working on reducing risks from landmines in Vietnam since 2001. It’s estimated that 38% of landmine injuries and fatalities happen to children who don’t recognize risks, don’t have safe places to play, or are trying to bring materials back to their family to earn income.

Michel ColaciComment