I was wondering about Laos

July 3, 2008
laos1a-020580E.jpg
© UNICEF/HQ02-0580/Jim Holmes
LAOS: A boy bathes with water collected at a handpump, in the remote northwestern province of Luang Namtha. The handpump, installed at a health center, is now also being used by the community.

We're all getting excited about the upcoming CNN program, The Survival Project: One Child at a Time, which will really shine a light on the child survival issues we care about so much. The show will include four documentary-type segments that look at UNICEF programs in four different countries: Iraq, Peru, Ethiopia and Laos. Since I don't know that much about Laos"officially known as the Lao People's Democratic Republic"I thought I'd do a little research and pass it along to you.

My research project was made infinitely easier when I learned that Amy Delneuville, a UNICEF Child Protection Officer based in Laos, would be stopping by our offices to give a talk about the country and UNICEF's programs there. Child protection is one of UNICEF's major focuses in Laos, as are water, sanitation, nutrition and education (among others).

laos1a-020580E.jpg
© UNICEF/HQ02-0580/Jim Holmes
LAOS: A boy bathes with water collected at a handpump, in the remote northwestern province of Luang Namtha. The handpump, installed at a health center, is now also being used by the community.

We're all getting excited about the upcoming CNN program, The Survival Project: One Child at a Time, which will really shine a light on the child survival issues we care about so much. The show will include four documentary-type segments that look at UNICEF programs in four different countries: Iraq, Peru, Ethiopia and Laos. Since I don't know that much about Laos"officially known as the Lao People's Democratic Republic"I thought I'd do a little research and pass it along to you.

My research project was made infinitely easier when I learned that Amy Delneuville, a UNICEF Child Protection Officer based in Laos, would be stopping by our offices to give a talk about the country and UNICEF's programs there. Child protection is one of UNICEF's major focuses in Laos, as are water, sanitation, nutrition and education (among others).

Laos is a landlocked country in southeast Asia, shaped a little like a fat, wind-bent flower and bordered by China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. In the last few decades, Laos has experienced a general increase in political and economic freedoms (think China), but it's a poor country where 23 percent of its five million people live on less than one dollar a day.

Eleven percent of children aged 5"11 are involved in child labor, mostly agricultural work. And its many borders make it vulnerable to both drug and human trafficking. Amy Delneuville and her team are working to protect children from trafficking and sexual exploitation. But tourism in Laos is beginning to explode (I've seen a bunch of travel articles about it recently) and, as other areas in the region crack down on child prostitution, Laos' problem is on the rise.

CNN's "Survival Project" segment on Laos will focus on UNICEF's water and sanitation programs. Diarrhreal diseases are the second biggest killer of children in Laos, which is not too surprising when you know that as few as 20 percent of people in the country currently have access to adequate sanitation. Laos is fully embracing 2008 as the National Year of Sanitation and, with UNICEF's help, has implemented a campaign to dramatically increase wells, school latrines and safe hygiene education.

Be sure to watch CNN's The Survival Project: One Child at a Time to learn more!