Why Health Matters in Laos

We'd like to thank everyone that responded to our last "Imagine this" email/article. Your financial support and words of encouragement are life-changing. In response to questions many of you had about the health situation in Laos we have attempted to give you a better picture of what we're dealing with and how much your support is needed and appreciated. 

The Facts: Laos remains the second poorest country in the Southeast Asian region, with some of the worst development indicators. Consider this; Laos has a population of roughly 6.3 million, around 80% of that population are still dependent on rural livelihoods. Currently 27% of people are living on less than $1 per day and a staggering 74% on less than $2 per day. That's over 4.6 million people struggling to survive everyday. Poverty is extensive and increasingly defined by geography and ethnicity - with the poor concentrated in districts located in the remote and ethnically diverse mountainous north. These remote areas have little or no infrastructure and suffer without basic essentials such as running water, education, health care, access to services or markets. 

Primary Health Care: The status in Laos is amongst the lowest in Southeast Asia, only 32% of the rural population have access to safe drinking water while only 20% have access to adequate sanitation. A heartbreaking 15% of children under 5 years of age die each year from preventable diarrheal disease with most of these deaths occurring in rural areas. Mothers who live in remote mountainous areas and who belong to an ethnic minority are 3 times more likely to die than compared to mothers living in Laos' urban areas. 

We have found in the areas we work that the health facilities, management structures and capacity of health staff at district and village level require much strengthening. There is usually only one district health centre facility which lacks essential medical equipment, facilities and medical supplies. Our field assessments have found that there is no access to safe drinking water in the villages. Most families collect their water from small streams or nearby rivers. These waterways are used for bathing and defecation as well as for household purposes like cooking and washing. Downstream villages use the same water sources. The villagers practice open defecation in and around their villages as there are no latrines in most villages. The open defecation of the population and their cattle combined with lack of solid waste management make the village and its surrounding a breeding ground for diseases. The 3 most common diseases in the target villages are diarrhoea, intestinal parasites and malaria. Diarrhoea and intestinal parasites are directly linked to hygiene and clean water, and malaria has an indirect relation to water and hygiene through the malaria-mosquito that breeds in water. However basic awareness of good health practices is extremely low. Most people don't know about basic hygiene practises like hand washing. 

Health education and promotion and improved access to clean water and latrines is needed to empower these communities to make healthy lifestyle choices. The greatest health risks are posed to mothers and children. Studies have shown that inadequate care and feeding practices, especially on breastfeeding and weaning, are among the underlying causes leading to the high levels of chronic malnutrition observed in our project areas. Women commonly go through their pregnancy and give birth in the village, without any antenatal medical advice or support. In the rare cases children are taken to medical care outside the village, additional risks are taken by travelling by foot for hours just to reach a district clinic which itself is limited in their ability to provide adequate health care. 

This picture is grim we know, but we are committed to doing our part to change this. The reality is that we cannot do this alone, we need your support and prayers. We encourage you to think about how best you can partner with us and help make a real difference. Can you raise awareness and support in your local church or community? Can you start a 'month of support' at your workplace? Or can your family partner with ADRA as your special project this year? Whatever it is that you decide to do, no matter how small, will make a big difference in the lives of children and mothers in Laos.

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Have you seen this? 

Watch our latest film on the Water Sanitation & Health (WASH) sector of our health program

Our HEALTH Program: 

ADRA is supporting Laos in achieving theMillennium Development Goals 5 & 6 (Child Health & Combat HIV/AIDS), by equipping communities through education and training using simple, culturally contextualised and creative approaches that empower families to take control of their own health. ADRA also recognises the limitations to preventative behaviour, which is why we are also supporting the development of the governments’ rural health services through training, resourcing and partnership that works towards improved rural health care. 

ADRA has been providing clean water and sanitary latrines for over 15 years. We work by partnering with rural communities in providing technical skills and oversight, training and some material and communities provide their labour and contribute some of the material. All construction is combined with locally contextualised hygiene and health training. Through this mechanism, we are constructing eco-friendly Gravity-Fed Systems (GFS) and family latrines that have proven to significantly improve the health of many communities. In line with the Millennium Development Goal 7 (target #3), we are committed to facilitating the provision of clean water and sanitation to the rural areas of Laos that do not have access to this basic human right. 

Our HEALTH Partners: 

ADRA Australia

ADRA Canada 

ADRA Germany 

ADRA Netherlands 

ADRA International 




Like to get involved? 

Check out our new website www.adralaos.org and take a more in-depth look at what we are doing and where. We’d love to get your feedback. 

As a Christian development organisation we believe that your prayers will make a real difference to the work we do here. Also we gladly accept your financial support and you can safely make your secure donation by clicking here

ADRA Laos serves all those in need without regard to ethnicity, gender, age, political or religious affiliation.

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Published by: ADRA Laos
01 Jul 2010 05:03 GMT
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