Category Archives: Health

Laos Issues Nationwide Dengue Warning

Laos Issues Dengue Fever Warning

The Lao Ministry of Health has issued a nationwide warning amid increasing dengue fever incidence across the country.

Dengue Fever on the Rise across Laos

mosquito transmitting dengue fever

Dengue fever is on the rise in Laos this year, with hospitals reporting an increase in the number of patients.

Doing, Doing, Done: Can-Do Cycle Team Dai Rides On Against Odds For HOPE Children’s Charity

Cyclist Charity Team Dai on a Mountaintop!

Laos-based international cyclist charity Team Dai including keen cyclist Ms Thu Ng from Vietnam tackle multiple challenges, raise confidence levels and much-needed funds, seeking to surpass the USD15,000 donation mark for disadvantaged children’s Hope Centre. 

Thinking of cycling, in some parts of the world, and lycra-clad road warriors and their aspirants will come to mind.

In others, perhaps a leisurely cruise down a local bike path or in a park, perhaps by a lake or riverside.

Elsewhere, this is not quite the case. In the case of developing countries like Laos, cycling is often seen as hot, old fashioned, disadvantageous and even highly dangerous.

Road safety is also a malleable concept. Drink driving too often prevails, peaking during festive seasons.

You could say being a cyclist in Laos is generally no “ride in the park”.

In fact, it can be an activity that best suits the determined.

The fairly flat Vientiane plain notwithstanding, Laos is certainly a majority mountainous country.

The quality of roads can leave a great deal wanting. Its a fact that surfacing on many a Lao thoroughfare is often in a more rustic condition than you see at the neighbors. Add a very warm, tropical climate and variable air quality as issues that impact.

 

It is also a developing nation where most folks aspire to motor vehicle ownership, cycling does not convey the status it does in more developed nations.

Cycling them puts you in close contact with all the vehicles, large and small, controlled by drivers of all levels of skill, experience, and temperament.

So why would a woman cycle?

It’s a question keen rider Ms Thu Ng knows better than most.

Growing up in neighboring Vietnam before making a home with her husband from Laos, she has been living in the capital Vientiane for some years.

"This year's Team Dai Challenge was my fourth. For me, it was another great year of riding with like-minded and supportive Team Dai members." Thu Ng, cyclist

“This year’s Team Dai Challenge was my fourth. For me, it was another great year of riding with like-minded and supportive Team Dai members.” Ms Thu Ng

She comes up against reflexively scornful attitudes toward the humble bicycle and cyclists both on the streets and at home.
It’s positive health and social impacts are less understood.

Cycling can be seen as a dangerous activity and certainly not one for a woman, particularly wife or mother, to be engaged in.

Ms Thu Ng tackled her fourth Team Dai Challenge for charity raising some US$14,630 to date for the HOPE Center’s work.

She shared her thoughts on the ride from her perspective as a keen cyclist and woman.

“This year’s Team Dai Challenge was my fourth and for me, it was another great year of riding with like-minded and supportive Team Dai members.” 

“In the Asian culture in which I grew up, I normally get told that women should stay home and not risk their lives.

“This mindset makes it hard for us women to engage in what is seen as extreme sports or exercise.”

“But I am a real optimist and believe that the best part of life is having the freedom to do whatever you are passionate about.

“This is happiness and this is all about life.”

Team Dai members including Ms Thu Ng

Team Dai members including Ms Thu Ng

Similarly, she was drawn to the engaging aspect of making a contribution to the society of the country she calls home.

“It has been said that giving is a simple solution towards some of the world’s most complicated problems. 

“So every year, we volunteer our time and efforts to carry out Team Dai’s mission of raising funds to help our community.

“For me personally, the ability to give support and spread love is the very best part of every Team Dai challenge.”

Team Dai Cyclist Charity Efforts Fund HOPE

The recipient of this affection in 2019 is the HOPE Centre, a community outreach program launched by ARDA Language Centre Vientiane in 2006.

HOPE Centre helps over 200 children and youth who are at risk of abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.

The center aims to serve the most vulnerable children and youth in the community to see them grow and develop in a healthy way and give them new hope for the future.

It does so by providing a safe environment where children begging on the streets, those living in slum communities and working could stop in during the day to bathe, receive medical care, a nutritious meal, general education and be involved in other activities including arts & crafts, music, sports and participate in special events.

Staff work alongside families living in poor communities to alleviate child labor and exploitation by helping them improve their livelihoods, parenting skills, and living conditions so that their children will have a suitable place to live and attend school.

Cyclist Charity Team Dai at HOPE Center

Cyclist Charity Team Dai at HOPE Center

Trauma counseling, educational therapy, and social skills development to child victims of abuse and exploitation help them address past experiences and move forward to lead productive lives.

Scholarships are also provided to help deter children from begging or being forced into other forms of child labor while providing enhanced educational opportunities.

Meanwhile, sporting activities including soccer and volleyball are used to divert children and youth from being drawn into a downward spiral including drug abuse.

Team Dai Cyclist Members in Luang Prabang

Team Dai Cyclists in Luang Prabang

Located at ARDA Language Centre in Vientiane, HOPE Centre welcomes every child, particularly the poor and vulnerable, a worthy cause Team Dai are proud to support.

Team Dai Cyclist Celebrates

Team Dai Cyclist Celebrates Calf-Building Charity Efforts

Contributions Celebrated on International Day at UN House, Plus Laos’ PM hosts Volunteers

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

Happy International Volunteer Day!

Countless and myriad. Such are the contributions of volunteers to making our communities better places to live, no matter where on the globe we call home.

Both Lao and international volunteers efforts in Laos were recognized for World Volunteers Day in the capital Vientiane Wednesday evening, with a celebration set to recognize efforts in building resilient communities.

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

Personal actions matter for community resilience.

At the event at Vientiane’s UN House, volunteers from multiple organizations were preparing to gather to share how they help build resilient communities.

Among these were official assistance volunteers in the form of United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

Joining them was Cuso International, is a non-profit development organization, whose goal is to work alongside local people in other countries, to improve the lives of people living with poverty and inequality.

Official assistance volunteers from France Volontaires and those of cooperation agencies from Japan (JICA) and the Republic of Korea (KOICA) were also in attendance as were members of Global Shapers Vientiane Hub, a World Economic Forum youth initiative.

Insights and inspiration from volunteers on the ground were set to be shared, along with dance performances and networking opportunities.

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

International Volunteers Day in Vientiane, Laos

 

UN Representative’s Message

Addressing the gathering was UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Kaarina Immonen.

“The International Volunteer Day (IVD), which was established by the United Nations in 1985, is an initiative to recognise contributions to development agenda made by volunteers, organisations and communities, joining by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide,” Ms Immonen said.

“Since 1983, more than 1,100 UN volunteers have served in Lao PDR from over 60 countries, and around 30 UN volunteers serve annually in various UN agencies, project offices and Lao government ministries.

“They devote themselves in constructing better future for the Lao population in different fields.

“This year, our campaign set a closer look on how local community volunteers contribute to building resilient communities.

“In the 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report released lately, it stated volunteerism provides a mechanism for channeling individual actions into collective strategies for coping with risk.

“These strategies help build social relationships, forging bonds of solidarity, enhance trust, expand people’s support base and lessen their vulnerability to shocks and stresses.

“When Laos was hit by the worst flood in its history last July, UN volunteer was one of the members of our emergency response team to supply food donations and clothes to the affected communities.

“Our volunteers sustain their support to the communities by coordinating disaster relief tasks, educating rural communities and ethnic groups on disaster preparedness through community radio, assisting Unexploded Ordnance clearance in flooded areas, raising Lao population’s awareness on climate change issues, encouraging them to take climate actions and promoting environmental sustainability.

“We would like have our locals to learn how different sectors work on community resilience.

“Therefore, UN Volunteers Programme in Lao PDR decided to commemorate the International Volunteer day by inviting different partners to share their volunteer experience, encouraging the public to get involved in volunteerism in their own ways.”

PM Thongloun asks for insights from Japan’s volunteers

Earlier in the week, insights and impressions from experiences at the grassroots was the Prime Ministerial request.

Members of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) and Japan’s Senior Volunteers (SV) were hosted by Mr Thongloun Sisoulith and senior officials on for an annual courtesy call and informal exchange on Monday, December 10.

According to the Embassy of Japan, Mr. Thongloun expressed heartwarming appreciation for volunteers’ daily efforts. The volunteers also reported on their activities and challenges that they directly are facing on the ground.  In response, the Prime Minister made comments on the initiatives being made by the Government of Laos.

Japan has been dispatched Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) since 1965 and Lao PDR is the first country in the world which received the volunteers from Japan.

Since then, 992 Volunteers have been making efforts to solve development issues in various sectors together with the people of the Lao PDR. The 1000th Japanese volunteer to Laos is set to arrive in early 2019.

Prime Minister Thongloun welcomes visit from Volunteers from Japan via JICA

Prime Minister Thongloun welcomes visit from Volunteers from Japan via JICA

PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV)

PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) via JICA

PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV)

 PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) via JICA

PM Thongloun meets Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) via JICA

Award-winning OB-GYN: Japanese health advisor achieves global recognition for efforts in Laos

Dr Hiromi Obara presented with FIGO Award at World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Laos-based medic Doctor Hiromi Obara from Japan is one of twenty women practitioners in the field worldwide awarded in 2018 by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics’ (FIGO) at its World Congress in Brazil. The recognition comes amid contributions to improving the health of women in low and middle-income countries and other resource-limited settings.

As the winter snows fall on Japan’s rural and windswept northern coastal Aomori prefecture, the cool, dry season of Laos in tropical South-East Asia may seem somewhat distant indeed.

For award-winning medic, Dr Hiromi Obara, the connection between the two places and their people is clear when it comes to maternal and child health.

Growing up in this part of rural Japan helped put this women’s reproductive health specialist on a long path to the international impact that has now seen formal recognition. Her inspiration to pursue a career in this critical field of medicine was born of experiences of people in her homeland, whose geographically remote and less populated parts have long-faced the challenges of deficits of access to medical care due to distance and related issues.

Her career since has seen her obtaining her MSc in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to contributing in joint efforts with counterparts to improve access to quality care for rural and remote communities in the Southeast Asian nation of Laos and beyond.

Dedication and capacity developed over the intervening years has led to present focus on the health of women and children in Laos. In this south-east Asian nation, she actively supports policymakers and practitioners to assist more women and children in rural and remote parts to achieve better health outcomes thanks to increased access.

Serving as a Health Policy Advisor to Laos’ Ministry of Health on behalf of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Dr Obara is working closely with fellow officials and programme managers in the country to improve access to the services provided by professional health personnel nationwide.

Now, these efforts have been formally recognised by her fellows in the field. FIGO, a peak body representing national societies in some 130 countries worldwide, awards women obstetricians and gynecologists, predominantly from low- and middle-income countries, who have contributed significantly to the improvement of health care for women in their daily practice or via research.
FIGO Award winning Dr Hiromi Obara

Among the twenty FIGO awardees announced at the triennial global congress held in October in Brazil, Dr Obara was one of a handful to hail from a developed country.

Asked what she is most proud of, it’s the impact of the results of the work of her counterparts and the achievements they have been able to make with women, their children, families and communities.

“Compared to other countries, the situation in Lao PDR was notorious concerning inequity in access to Maternal and Child Health Care, as recently as 2011/12.”

“However, thanks to the government’s commitment, investment in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child health has increased by various means such as the development of midwives, free MCH access schemes, resulting in improved pro-poor access to maternal and child health at scale.”

Among these achievements is the increased percentage of births attended by professional health personnel. As average, the proportion of deliveries attended by professional health personnel increased from 42% in 2011/12 to 64% in 2017.
More mothers and children benefit from access to professional health personnel. – Image JICA

Credit for such improvements she ascribes primarily to efforts of counterparts in the ministry at every level, from leadership to those delivering lifesaving and protecting services across the country.

“My counterparts (MoH officials) have strong ownership and leadership which,  together with the inputs from JICA and other Development Partners, has contributed to the recent health outcomes, in particular, pro-poor and equitable access to maternal and child health services.

“Without enough dialogue, it is not possible for me to offer technical support. As such, I appreciate their kind collaboration. I have learned a lot from MoH officials here in the Lao PDR.”

On secondment from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGM) Japan, Dr Obara has over 18 years’ experience providing technical, programmatic and management support in reproductive, maternal and newborn health (RMNH).

Her career has since seen her contributing across several locations in the Western Pacific Region and beyond, focusing on resource-limited settings in particular.

At home in Japan, she has served as Deputy Director of the International Affairs Division of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and as a doctor at Jichi Medical University Hospital.

Apart from Laos, she has also worked as a reproductive Health Medical Officer in World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific and as Chief Advisor to JICA’s MCH project in Cambodia.

Dr Obara counts among her areas of expertise country policies, strategies, plans, clinical guidelines, and efforts to improve financial access to and equitable access to and quality of care. Her efforts include contributing to regional and global meetings as an RMNH expert and to WHO publications as a member of several Guideline Development Groups and the Independent Review Group.

Such contributions have seen her well placed to offer advice to health authorities in how to best conduct maternal death reviews, improve newborn care, eliminate unsafe abortions, develop policy strategy frameworks and conduct monitoring both at country and regional levels.

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) supports Lao medical professionals to deliver MCH services. (Credit Steven A Cleary/JICA)

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) supports Lao medical professionals to deliver MCH services. (Credit Steven A Cleary/JICA)

Looking forward, Dr Obara is optimistic about the trends and prospects for better access and outcomes for women and their children in Laos as the developing nation closes in on its 2020 goals.

To achieve these goals and continually improve the health outcomes for women and infants in 2020 and beyond necessitates appropriate funding allocation to the sector in terms of facilities, equipment and medicine as well as providing targeted incentives for ongoing improvement of human resource capacity to deliver result-based, family-centered services and clinical care countrywide, Dr Obara said.

Dr Hiromi Obara presented with FIGO Award at World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Dr Hiromi Obara presented with FIGO Award at World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Helpless No More: Hope For Survivors A Precious Commodity via Prosthetics

Not Helpless: UXO survivor Mr Ing

It means so much to me that I am now able to be independent and carry out basic daily activities. It relieves the burden on my family and I do not feel helpless anymore“. – Mr Ing, 46 years.

It’s a tale that remains all too familiar in rural Laos; the life-changing impact of accidents involving unexploded ordnance (UXO) thanks to unexploded munitions from a war with many names now decades over.

Folks like Mr Ing, 46, whose accident 2 years ago took away the livelihood necessary to support his wife and four children aged 2-15 years.

From being family breadwinner to being seen by himself as a burden, his injuries have changed his life forever.

Getting more of his life back is critical to the physical and mental wellbeing of people like Mr Ing and his family, who has gone from feeling helpless about his predicament to having greater hope for the future.

Assisting people like Mr Ing to rebuild their lives are among the critical efforts organisations like COPE Laos with the able assistance of the Halo Trust.

Mr Ing agreed to share his story via COPE and Halo to raise awareness of the critical issue of survivor support services via prosthetics and rehabilitation in Laos
. Halo writes;

UXO explosion leaves farming father with double amputation, vision impairment

Mr Ing is married with 4 children with ages ranging between 2-15 years.

The UXO-related accident happened two years ago when he was out cutting grass in his fields to prepare his land for cultivation.

He does not remember anything after the explosion but he spent two weeks at the Savannakhet Hospital recuperating from the amputation of both his arms. He was also blinded in his right eye.

Some of his medical expenses at the hospital were covered by an NGO but no other assistance was provided to him after the accident.

His wife became the sole breadwinner for the family with his 15-year old son dropping out of school to help her, whilst his 10-year old daughter also stopped schooling to take care of him.

Ing is unable to carry out even the most basic activities such as eating and dressing by himself.

He has to be fed at every meal.

His family went from one that did not suffer any food shortage to harvesting only 10 bags of rice a year (enough food to feed the family for only 2 months).

The family sold their s hectare piece of land this year to buy food and medication.

To sustain themselves, they forage in the forest and harvest bamboo shoots.

Ing met staff from HALO Trust, who work to clear UXO in Savannakhet province who helped him to access prosthetic rehabilitation services for free, including reimbursement for travels, accommodation and food allowance at Savannakhet Provincial Rehabilitation Centre with COPE’s support.

HALO Trust brought Ing to the Rehabilitation Centre where he was assessed and measured for prosthetic arms.

The rehabilitation team gave him a hook for his right hand that would enable him to grasp thing, whilst the model left hand would act as a support.

Within minutes of leaving the Centre, Ing was eating with his new prosthetic devices, and regaining his sense of dignity and independence for the first time in 2 years.

A team from HALO Trust visited Ing a month later at his home. He is now able to feed and dress himself. He is able to perform his daily tasks without much help.

In time, he hopes to be able to use his prosthetic devices to help his wife with farming activities.

To learn more about HALO Trust’s work in Lao PDR, please visit their website at www.halotrust.org/where-we-work/south-asia/laos.

“Here at COPE, you provide assistance to those who have suffered because of UXO while shining a spotlight on the work that still has to be done.” – US President Barack Obama, September 2016

Number of Lao Married Women Using Contraception Rises Slowly

According to the Lao Social Indicator Survey (LSIS II) launched in June this year, the use of modern contraceptive methods among married women aged 15-49 has increased from 42% in 2011 to 49% in 2017.

The unmet need for modern contraceptives among married women aged 15-49 has declined from 19.2% to 14.3%, and 75% of unmarried women aged 15-19 still do not have access to family planning.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights held in Tehran, where family planning was, for the first time, globally affirmed to be a human right.

UNFPA has been supporting Family Planning in Laos since 1995 following the International Conference on Population and Development and good progress has been made in providing Family Planning information and services for many people, according to UNFPA Representative to Laos Frederika Meijer.

“Unfortunately, as we can see from the LSIS indicators, not EVERYONE is reached yet. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, we should not leave anyone behind hence we need to strengthen our efforts,” said Meijer.

“Globally UNFPA has adopted a new Strategic Plan that aims to bring down unmet need and maternal death to zero, these transformative results steer our work everywhere including here in Lao PDR where we would like to see availability of Family Planning for everyone,” said Meijer.

“Together with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), this year in the Lao PDR we celebrate World Population Day with the theme Family Planning for Everyone, because we want to simplify the understanding of family planning that it is not only for parents or couples, but for all people regardless of their sex, gender, backgrounds, social or economic status,” said Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Dr. Kikeo Chanthaboury at the World Population Day celebration in Vientiane.

“All couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so,” said Dr Kikeo, echoing the tenets of the Tehran Proclamation.

Source: UNFPA, KPL

Cow and Buffalo Deaths Occur in Vientiane Province

cow and buffalo deaths in vientiane province

In addition to the cow deaths occurring in Vientiane Capital this month, a number of cattle have now died in several villages in Vientiane Province.

Local veterinarians have been unable to determine the cause of death.

Two cows died in Phonsavath Village earlier this month, while ten more cows were found dead in Sengchalern Village. 13 buffalo were also reported dead in Naxomboun Village.

Experts theorize that the cattle have contracted some form of disease, whether spread from other cattle or other animals is unknown.

The 13 dead buffalo were purchased from a neighboring province, and after being put out to pasture they suddenly began to die.

District Governor Saman Visetyaphong is quoted in a report by the Vientiane Times as saying that residents have been instructed to temporarily suspend the sale of beef, and farmers have been asked not to move their animals in order to prevent the spread of disease.

Meanwhile, local veterinarians and agricultural specialists are investigating sick animals in the province.

Earlier this month, 40 cows died in Xaysettha District, Vientiane Capital, suspected of being poisoned by chemical waste.  Another 80 cow deaths were reported in the same area the previous month.