Hospital Opens Doors to “One-Stop” Services For Survivors of Violence for First Time in Laos

For Survivors of Violence for First Time in Laos
The One-Stop Service Unit opening ceremony. (Photo: UNFPA)

The Ministry of Health unveiled the nation’s first hospital-based One-Stop Service Unit (OSSU) for survivors of violence in Mahosot Hospital on Monday.

The OSSU was officially opened by Dr. Sanongthong Thongsana, Vice Minister of Health, Australia’s Gender Equality Ambassador, Ms. Stephanie Copus Campbell AM, and UNFPA Representative Dr. Bakhtiyor Kadyrov. The confidentially located center will provide integrated essential services to survivors of violence.

Gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world that undermines the health, security, and dignity of women. According to the last survey on violence against women in Laos (2014), 2 in every 5 women has experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

The survey also reveals the significant health consequences for survivors, with more than 40% of women subjected to physical or sexual violence by their husband or intimate partner being injured as a result. Yet, many women (43%) who encounter partner violence do not report it due to embarrassment and fear of social stigma, and very few seek help from official authorities. Providing a place to go, such as this one-stop service unit that is specifically designed to support women experiencing violence, is clearly needed.

To address this issue, the Ministry of Health has modeled the new service unit after similar
centers in Mongolia visited during a UNFPA-Government of Lao study tour. The OSSC is the first of its kind in Laos and includes the country’s first dedicated GBV Health Assistance Hotline (#1527).

Dr. Sanongthong Thongsana, Vice Minister of Health said, “We are grateful to the ongoing
support from UNFPA and the Government of Australia to strengthen the health system response to violence against women and girls. The new national GBV Health Assistance hotline will significantly increase access to health information around the country, and we hope to continue to expand the “one-stop” model to other hospitals and provinces.”

Managed by the Ministry of Health with technical support from UNFPA and financial support
from the Australian Government, and in collaboration with the Lao Women’s Union and the
National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers, and Child, the OSSC will
provide an integrated package of services including acute health services, mental health and psychosocial support, and forensic evidence collection, as well as collaborating with other sectors to provide services to the survivor whilst they are in hospital, such as legal counseling, social services, police assistance, etc.

Ms. Stephanie Copus Campbell AM, Australia’s Gender Equality Ambassador, on her official
visit to Laos to engage on critical issues including gender-based violence and women’s economic empowerment, said, “The Government of Australia appreciates the close collaboration with the Government of Laos and UNFPA on prevention and response initiatives to end violence against women and girls. Australia targets initiatives that enhance gender equality by building systems and synergies across all sectors.”

Given survivors of violence often come into contact with the health system, either for routine care or violence-related injuries, it is important hospitals and medical facilities offer access to the range of services survivors may need in a coordinated way.

Dr. Bakhtiyor Kadyrov, UNFPA Representative in Laos, said, “The launch of the first-ever One-Stop Service Unit and National Hotline has become a reality due to the remarkable commitment of the Government of Laos to addressing GBV in the country, including the strong focus on multi-sectoral response to GBV, GBV coordination and referral pathways, as well as generous contributions from the Government of Australia. This is in line with the national ICPD25 commitments to end GBV by 2030, and this one-stop service unit and hotline constitute a historical milestone towards that future.”

UNFPA, the United Nations Sexual and reproductive health agency, works in over 150 countries, including Laos, to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet family planning needs, and zero gender-based violence.