Laos is one of East Asia’s poorest countries. Since 1991, it has struggled to find its position within a changing political and economic landscape. Laos is a landlocked, mountainous country, widely covered by largely unspoilt tropical forest. Less than 5% of the land is suitable for subsistence agriculture, which nevertheless provides around 80% of employment. Laos is banking on the anticipated returns from a billion-dollar dam scheme, intended to generate electricity, to Thailand, to boost its economy and infrastructure. Majority of the population reside in rural areas. Outside the capital, many people live without electricity or access to basic facilities. (Source: www.bbc.co.uk).
The Laos reproductive health status of girls and women, particularly members of ethnic minorities and those living in rural areas, is still poor. The country still has the highest maternal mortality ratios and infant mortality rates in the region. In rural areas, women and adolescent girls have shorter intervals between births, marry younger, bear children younger, and have a higher fertility rate.
Adolescent reproductive health is a particular concern. Over 18 percent of women start their families before the age of 20, and around 15 percent of all births are to adolescents aged 15-19. Anecdotal evidence suggests that increasing numbers of unmarried girls are having unsafe abortions, which can lead to sometimes fatal health complications. The very high level of fertility among adolescent girls also highlights their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Bearing children and marrying young also reinforce the disadvantage suffered by women and girls; they are associated with lower literacy and educational attainment, as well as limiting access to other development opportunities. Health care and medical services remain very poor throughout the country.
Lao PDR is one of the countries most seriously affected by the American War on Indochina. The southern and eastern regions, in particular, were heavily bombarded and remain severely contaminated with UXO, or unexploded ordnance. Current de-mining operations are only beginning to address this problem.
terre des hommes Germany began helping the new government in 1975 through relief assistance. In the early 1990s, terre des hommes Germany became more involved in supporting development programmes in remote areas of the southern provinces of Salavan and Attapeu, where majority of the population are members of ethnic minority groups and maintain a very traditional way of life. In the northern provinces of Bokeaw and Luang Prabang, tdh supports the education of ethnic minority groups in formal and no-formal education.
terre des home Germany partners with the village Focus International (an international NGO) and with 2 other local NGOs, i.e. Our Village for Community Development (under the umbrella of Village Focus International) and Big Brother Mouse. terre des hommes also works with the Laos government counterparts, especially with the department of Non-formal Education and the Laos Women’s Union.
Major activities include:
o Community-based education for ethnic minorities where participatory learning processes, including Lao literacy, are incorporated within development projects based on local needs in different communities.
o Supporting and improving the education for the ethnic minority school for children.
o Health education activities, such as the prevention of malaria and intestinal disorders.
o Sustaining food security through agricultural projects.
o Supporting the construction of simple schools for children with local counterparts
o Establishing Community Learning Centres (CLCs) and small library cases to encourage local learning.
o Improving access to education by promoting and preserving indigenous culture/wisdom and integrating values for cultural and biodiversity into the content of books for children and adults in rural areas.
terre des hommes Germany and its partner organization have expanded work to more remote areas, where there is little or no access to government services and where there are still significant amounts of remaining Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).
Partners in Laos
- Village Focus International