Laos-Australia Partnership Launched with Major Investment in Dengue Research

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Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (Photo: Vientiane Mai)

Australia has committed AUD 3 million (almost USD 2 million) in financial support this year to advance research combating dengue fever in Laos through Monash University’s World Mosquito Program. This marks the initial step in a series of projects anticipated to emerge from the recently established “comprehensive partnership” between Laos and Australia.

Dengue fever, also known as break-bone fever, is a viral illness transmitted through mosquito bites, predominantly affecting regions with tropical and subtropical climates, posing a significant threat to nearly half of the world’s population, including Laos.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 100 million to 400 million dengue infections annually, with Laos facing a year-round risk. In 2023 alone, the country reported 35,317 cases of dengue, killing 20 individuals across the country. As of 5 March, the country has reported a total of 1,289 cases of dengue infections, resulting in three fatalities.

The financial support from Australia is anticipated to effectively tackle the challenges by funding research and enabling Australia to share insights and resources to combat the spread of dengue fever in Laos.

Additionally, in an effort to enhance bilateral ties, Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australian Special Summit on 6 March. Both leaders pledged commitments to long-term climate finance, tackling transnational crime, and promoting increased people-to-people exchanges, with a specific emphasis on improving health outcomes in the ASEAN region.

The agreement encompasses four key pillars, people, education, and human resource development; economics, trade, and investment; climate, environment, and energy; and defense and law enforcement.

Since 1952, Laos and Australia have maintained diplomatic relations, with Australia holding the distinction of being one of Laos’ longest-standing diplomatic partners. Over the years, Australia has forged a significant history of development cooperation with Laos. During the fiscal year 2022-23, Australia allocated approximately USD 46.5 million in total official development assistance to Laos, of which USD 22.6 million was designated for bilateral funding.

With the “comprehensive partnership” now signed, the relationship between the two nations and their people is expected to flourish in the years ahead.