United States, WHO Launch USD 10 Million Initiative to Boost Maternal, Child Health in Laos

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The United States and WHO recently unveiled a new multi-year partnership aimed at enhancing maternal, and child health, and nutrition in Laos.

The initiative, called the CONNECT, is intended to receive USD 10 million and was highlighted in a ceremony on 24 April attended by key stakeholders including officials from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Led by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Home Affairs with support from WHO, the CONNECT Initiative is geared towards improving access to essential healthcare services such as vaccination and maternal and child care.

At its core, the initiative seeks to strengthen primary healthcare systems as a pathway towards achieving universal health coverage. It emphasizes building trust between healthcare providers and communities, enhancing local governance, and ensuring the sustainability of healthcare improvements.

Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Minister of Health of Laos, emphasized the collective responsibility towards healthcare, stating, “Health is not just a service, it’s a promise made and kept together.”

He emphasized the importance of strengthening governance at the community level, likening it to nurturing the roots of a tree to ensure a robust community.

In line with this sentiment, Thongchanh Manixay, Minister for Home Affairs, highlighted the crucial role of healthcare in improving living standards and quality of life, saying, “A key focus for our ministry is building stronger communities.”   He praised the CONNECT Initiative for its innovative approach and expressed optimism about its expansion.

US Chargée d’Affaires Michelle Y. Outlaw reiterated the United States’ commitment to supporting the development of Laos.

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“The United States is proud to partner with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, and WHO to invest in a healthier future for the people of Laos,” said Outlaw, emphasizing the pivotal role of strong governance in promoting health and building resilient communities.

To address the needs of remote and ethnic communities, USAID support will extend the reach of the CONNECT Initiative to five additional provinces including Phongsaly, Oudomxay, Savannakhet, Salavanh, and Sekong, following its deployment to more than 259 communities across 10 provinces to date. This expansion aims to improve service delivery and integrate maternal and child health services, including immunization and nutrition, at the provincial and community levels.

Timothy Armstrong, WHO Acting Representative to Laos, also reaffirmed WHO’s commitment to supporting healthcare efforts in the country. He emphasized the importance of ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare services for all communities.

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The partnership underscores the longstanding collaboration between the United States and Laos in improving healthcare. Over the years, the U.S. government, through agencies such as USAID and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been actively involved in various health initiatives in the country, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the expansion of the CONNECT Initiative, stakeholders are optimistic about the prospects of advancing maternal and child health in Laos, heralding a new chapter in healthcare development in the region.