By Dr Amy Gray, Centre for International Child Health, University of Melbourne
In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic a group of child health experts met recently to discuss the next steps for improving hospital care for sick children in their country. The work discussed at this meeting dates back to 2009. Then key paediatricians, in collaboration with the Centre for International Child Health at the University of Melbourne and the World Health Organization, began translating the WHO Pocketbook of Hospital Care for Children – creating the first comprehensive Lao language guidelines for paediatric hospital care.
Previously many doctors graduated medical school without owning a medical text. If hospitals owned any books they were often in Thai, French or English and often inaccessible under lock and key. Now it is a common sight to see hospital staff on paediatric wards flicking through the Pocketbook to check recommended treatments. Medical students sit between classes reading and discussing its contents. And this change has happened in just a few years.
Staff at Bokeo Provinical Hospital after receiving their Pocketbooks. Photo: Dr Chansouk Chatana
By Richard Record, Trade Specialist, World Bank in Vientiane
Trade has the potential to be a powerful and long lasting driver of broad-based economic and social development.
The export-led growth path of many of the countries in Southeast Asia is a well-known development success story. These countries have sought to stimulate investment in export manufacturing and services as a means of creating jobs and raising incomes.
Laos has been something of a late starter in this process, only quite recently beginning to emerge from a legacy of war and isolation. Now in transition from plan to market, the country is looking to integrate into the international and regional economy as a means of achieving the economic growth necessary to reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
By Manivanh Phoumavong, Senior Program Officer (Education) and Gender Focal Point, AusAID Vientiane
I recently travelled to some remote villages in mountainous regions of Laos to visit women Australia helped train to be primary school teachers.
The women are from ethnic communities that in some cases comprise as few as 5,000 people. Many were teenagers and in secondary school when they were offered the chance of a lifetime—to be trained as a teacher and return to teach at a school in their home community.
Lao is a second language for many children from minority ethnic communities. Photo: Bart Verweij for AusAID
I visited the women as part of a review of the Laos-Australia Basic Education Program (LABEP), an AusAID-funded program that finished five years ago. It trained almost 380 teachers and also provided a supplementary curriculum; teaching and learning materials geared to the needs of ethnic children; teacher guides; and on-site help. It was an innovative approach to help lift the numbers of children from minority ethnic communities who complete primary school and increase literacy in Lao—a second
language for many of the 49 ethnic groups in the country.
By Dr Stephen Kidd, Senior Social Policy Specialist, Development Pathways
In recent years, there has been an increase in AusAID’s commitment to helping countries deliver social protection to vulnerable members of their society. As a member of AusAID’s Social Protection Expert Panel, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a range of AusAID staff as they grapple with the challenge of incorporating a new policy
area into their programs and activities.
Villagers in a poor community in Oudomxay Province, Laos. Photo: Dr Stephen Kidd
I’ve worked on social protection since 2004 and it’s interesting to see how the nature of the debate has changed over the years. When I started, the focus was on trying to convince the international community and the governments of developing countries about the benefits of providing vulnerable people and families with access to regular cash transfers. It does seem a strange debate to have given that in developed countries there is ample evidence of the benefits of establishing a social security safety net. In Australia, for example, child poverty rates would more than double from 11.8 to 26.6 per cent in the absence of social protection. Indeed, debates on social protection in developed countries are not about whether it is necessary, as most recognise that it is, but rather on how it is designed.
By Alison De Luise, Food Security Policy Manager, AusAID
Today is International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, a day when everyone is encouraged to think about the difficulties faced by those affected by mines and other unexploded remnants of war. Australia’s support for mine action.
I never knew that Laos was one of the most bombed countries in the world. Nestled alongside Vietnam, much of the south is situated on or around the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail, the 1970s network of Vietcong supply trails. Laos suffered nine years of continuous bombing during the Vietnam War. It is estimated that more than two million tons of ordnance were let loose.
All female team of UXO Laos Deminers, working in Dakdoung, Sekong Province, Laos. Photo: Pisay Souvansay / AusAID
Visiting the Southern province of Sekong, nearly 40 years on, the countryside is still marked with bomb craters, giving some insight into the destruction that was inflicted upon the rural populations of Laos. It is difficult to fathom the destruction caused to local rural populations caught in the middle of the conflict, many of whom had few options for relocation. Unexploded bombs buried just beneath the soil threaten the lives of Laos people growing crops and earning income for their families. Up to 30 per cent of all bombs dropped are estimated not to have exploded, remaining active to this day. Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) continues to kill and maim men, women and children.