Laos made a significant breakthrough in its total sanitation drive as the country’s capital, Vientiane, achieved Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.
Vientiane capital is the first capital city in ASEAN region to receive the Open Defecation Free status. It is also the second province of Laos to reach this milestone after Bolikhamxay Province ended the practice in 2020.
At a ceremony held in Vientiane today, Mr. Atsaphangthong Siphandone Governor of Vientiane Capital, declared the capital an Open Defecation Free province. Over 170 people, including Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Minister of Health, and Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR, alongside representatives from other provinces, line ministries and development partners, attended the event.
“Today is a proud moment for all of us. We are heading towards our target of being an Open Defecation Free country with over 5,000 villages, 37 districts and two provinces already achieving the status,” said Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Minister of Health. “Congratulations to the people of Vientiane Capital for this historic achievement,” he added.
Vientiane is one of the most populated provinces in Lao PDR. The newly obtained ODF status will benefit almost 800,000 people, who will live in a cleaner and safer environment because of sanitation and hygiene improvements.
“We planned to achieve our sanitation target by 2023 but achieved this ahead of time and everyone now has access not only to toilets but are also practicing improved hygiene behaviors by using toilets,” said Mr. Atsaphangthong Siphandone, Governor of Vientiane Capital.
“This target was obtained through good efforts led by both communities and local authorities – contributing to health improvement of people in Vientiane Capital” the Governor added.
Poor sanitation can seriously impact children’s health, exacerbating nutrition challenges, causing stunting and the outbreak of preventable diseases. Ending the practice of open defecation is the first step toward achieving total sanitation and controlling the spread of diseases.
“Every year, we lose over 700 Lao children due to diarrhea and one in three children in the country are stunted. These indicators comprise the evidence in support of Lao PDR’s graduation from LDC status. We can dramatically reduce these impacts on children by use of basic sanitation facilities, regular handwashing with soap and safe drinking water,” said Dr. Pia Rebello Britto.
“UNICEF is committed to working with the government, community and partners to achieve our sanitation goals to deliver results for every child,” she added.
The Government of Lao PDR first began a sanitation campaign in 2008 with the “Community-led Total Sanitation” program. Years of tireless efforts from the community supported by the Government in partnership with the WASH partners have produced good momentum in the sanitation drive, with significant progress made across the country. Building on this, the Government of Lao PDR is looking to develop a roadmap to achieving national ODF status by 2025.