Friday, June 7, 2013

Lao Government and UNICEF launch “Study on Child Well-Being and Disparities in Lao PDR”

The Lao Government recently launched a Study highlighting its recognition of the need to focus development efforts on the poorest and most marginalized segments of society – especially for advancing the well-being of children.

The National Commission for Mothers and Children, in partnership with the Ministry of Planning and Investment, used the launch as an opportunity to stress the need for equity-focused approaches as the most practical and cost effective ways of meeting health and other Millennium Development Goals for children.

Speaking at the launch, Mr. Litou Bouapao, Vice-Chair of the National Commission for Mothers and Children, drew attention to Laos’s sustained economic growth and political achievements over the past decade, but noted that the benefits had yet to reach all segments of society.

“This growth brings new opportunities to the people of the Lao PDR, including its growing population of children and young people,” Mr. Litou said in her opening remarks. “Despite our growth, our stability and countless achievements we are challenged with bringing benefits to the poorest and the most vulnerable.

Supported by UNICEF, the ‘Study on Child Well-Being and Disparities in Lao PDR’, draws attention to the fact that geographic location, ethnicity and the education level of mothers are highly dependent factors in a child’s wellbeing, indicated by issues such as the likelihood of surviving early childhood, accessing adequate healthcare, education and improved drinking water and sanitation.

The Study stresses, for example, that a child born today in the urban area is three times more likely to survive to the age of five than a child born in the rural area.  Additional examples include findings showing that the percentage of undernourished children increases dramatically and steadily based on his or her mother’s level of education. The gap in sanitation facilities is even more striking. While 98 per cent of children among the wealthiest families have access to latrine, at least 93 per cent of children among the poorest households have no access to such facilities.

“We congratulate Lao PDR’s progress in socio-economic development in the recent years and efforts to improve the situation of children and mothers. We look forward to our continued collaboration in addressing inequities for the benefit of both the present and future generation,” said Ms. Julia Rees, Deputy Representative to UNICEF in Lao PDR.  “Extending services to the poorest children and most impoverished communities is both right in principle and practice.”

The Study marks the first time that Laos has embarked on an analysis of poverty focused on the - multi-dimensional impacts that poverty has on children, including aspects such as health, nutrition, protection, education, and water, sanitation and hygiene. 

Mr. Litou appealed to development partners, as well as central and local government leaders to work toward narrowing the inequities highlighted by the Study.   

“We acknowledge the key role of the local government to take action. Strengthening the institutions and capacities to use data to re-orientate development planning and budgeting to address the needs of most vulnerable children and mothers is of critical importance. Provincial and district government play a vital role to strengthen the implementation of the socio-economic development plans that reflect priority action and greater investment in our children’s health and education, especially in the second half of the 7th NSEDP."

For the full report click here 
For the press release in Lao click here

Focal points:
Julia Rees, OIC, UNICEF Lao PDR
Mizuho Okimoto-Kaewtathip, Chief of Social Policy, UNICEF Lao PDR,