Prospects of women and children in Laos still lag, UNICEF reports

19 March 2004

Children and women in Laos continue to suffer social and economic disadvantage, especially in rural areas, according to a mid-term review of a four-year assistance project run by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the country's Government.

Children and women in Laos continue to suffer social and economic disadvantage, especially in rural areas, according to a mid-term review of a four-year assistance project run by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the country's Government.

The review, released earlier this week in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, found that despite some gains, women and children still struggle to gain access to many basic services in the South-East Asian country.

Infant and maternal mortality rates remain among the highest in the region, while there has been an actual decline in vaccination coverage since the mid-1990s, according to the review.

Education is also serious problem. Some 135,000 primary school-aged children in Laos - mostly ethnic minorities - do not attend school. Children frequently have to repeat Grades 1 and 2 as well.

But the review also highlighted areas where Laos has made advances, especially for women and children, since the joint project began in 2002.

The country now has enough iodized salt for its entire population, thus reducing the prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders and mental retardation in children. Water quality targets have been met and the number of villages and primary schools with access to clean water and sanitary latrines has significantly improved.

Olivia Yambi, UNICEF's Representative in Laos, emphasized that society as a whole will gain through attention to women and children. "Where we have invested in the past two years, we have seen results," she said. "However we must re-double our efforts during the second half of our cooperation programme to ensure the rights of all Lao children are fulfilled."

 

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