Our Impact in Laos
Most children growing up in Laos face daily hardship. Laos is a country whose infrastructure has diminished over the past half-century, with railways opening then closing and a primitive road network remaining often impassable for large parts of the year.
The aftermath of war
The long-running Indochinese War, precursor to the Vietnam War, has had a lasting effect on the people of Laos. One of the most heavily bombed countries in the world, millions of cluster bombs still litter Laos’s countryside. Roughly the size and shape of a tennis ball, these bombs remain objects of curiosity to inquisitive children.
The threat of death or crippling injury has for decades deterred rural families from exploiting Laos’s massive potential for agriculture. Coupled with bad roads, the prevalence of unexploded cluster bombs makes migration difficult, and families are often forced to remain in areas where it is not possible to maintain a sustainable livelihood.
The effects of hunger
This lack of mobility has resulted in appalling levels of malnutrition amongst children in Laos. Hunger itself is a terrible affliction which no child should have to suffer, but it has the added consequence that hungry children start school later – if at all – and drop out earlier.
Without an education or a family business to take over, the children of Laos’s countryside grow up with little hope of a decent future. Although the government is working towards universal primary education, state spending is exceptionally low, and drop-out rates due to hunger continue to stall progress.
Recent years have seen an increasing focus on tackling malnutrition. In 2011, a project at our Village in Samneua used an innovative range of approaches to make children healthier, ranging from dietary changes and vitamin supplementation to physiotherapy. Children stayed on the programme until we were satisfied that they were physically and psychologically fit to return home.
It is by tailoring our approach to the unique circumstances of individual communities that we can best help children to break the cycle of hardship which has troubled generations.
Baby Baymone’s miraculous recovery
Niam and her husband are poor farmers who live in rural Savannakhet Province, in western Laos. Their daughter Baymone was only a year old when Niam became concerned for her wellbeing. Baymone could no longer sit up on her and had lost her appetite, refusing to eat even rice, a staple part of her diet.
A neighbour told Niam about the malnutrition programme at our Village in Savannakhet, and Niam took Baymone there straight away.
Baymone was in a bad way when she arrived. Thin, pale and with a distended abdomen, she weighed only 7kg. Our approach was gradual. De-worming medication and a healthy diet in the first week were followed by vitamin supplements and vaccinations.
Baby Baymone’s life was saved thanks to the care and attention of staff at our Children’s Village in Savannakhet. It was a lengthy process but Baymone was soon on the mend, and after two months she was able to return to her mother and father.