The Sustainable Development Goals in Lao PDR
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. In addition to 17 global goals, in 2016 the Government of Lao PDR has formally launched the national SDG18, ‘Lives Safe from UXO’ (unexploded ordnance), in the presence of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. As UXO remains an issue affecting national development in multiple dimensions, Lao PDR's output under the SDG18 contributes to the national outcomes under all the other SDGs. On the present map, some of the activities attributed to Vientiane are those which are carried out across the whole country.
13 December 2021
Safe disposal of medical waste - throwing away isn’t enough
With the widespread impact of the pandemic, proper waste disposal becomes critical. At the central level, in field hospitals, and quarantine facilities- all are faced with a high amount of infectious waste increase during the pandemic. Numbers of sports complexes, stadiums, schools, and dormitories were repurposed into isolation and quarantine facilities to accommodate more and more people. General and infectious wastes are being generated from these facilities, hence, the capacity to manage wastes has to be enhanced. Dr. Bouakham Tounnalom, Deputy Director of Hygiene Management Division, Ministry of Health has been working to support sanitation, water and waste management for almost 3 decades. Her main areas of responsibility include environmental cleaning, water, sanitation & hygiene, health care waste management and health impact assessment, as a result of being surrounded by heavy construction such as mining, and the health of factory workers across the provinces. Dr. Bouakham, with her accumulated years of experience, has provided training and workshops on wastewater sanitation and general waste management throughout the country. Although Dr. Bouakham went through general medical studies and has never formally received specialized training in this field, she was assigned to support the unit once she joined the Ministry. In addition to learning on the job, she received training both locally and internationally to enhance her skills for this job. Dr. Bouakham reflected, “waste collection, treatment, transport and disposal systems have limited capacity. Waste collection companies have to ensure proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), preventive measures and need to increase their frequency of picking up waste every week. Protocols and contracts have been signed to ensure safety measures are put into place for such services.” She adds that both solid and liquid wastes require immediate safe treatment and disposal in some quarantine and isolation facilities. “We can’t just let the wastewater flow out into the environment without a proper treatment system,” said Dr. Bouakham. With solid waste, WHO has provided technical support in developing guidance, training materials, and autoclaves to disinfect/treat infectious waste before further disposal. The maximum loading capacity is an average of 50-85 kilograms. Normally, the autoclave can load one- or two times, but during COVID-19 response, with the increase of waste amount, the autoclave now needs to operate two to three times per day. Not only has the volume of wastes increased but also the types of waste, particularly single-use items. For hygiene reasons, most facilities use single-use foam containers for meals that were delivered to patients or individuals. These single-use products, including plastic water bottles, are snowballing during the pandemic and there are many challenges to safely dispose these items without causing environmental pollution and human health impacts. These issues are only a small portion of what the government and its development partners are dealing with in order to respond to the rising medical waste demands. As part of the Learning from Experience to Improve Responding to COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific Region project funded by the People’s Republic of China, UNDP will provide technical support for Laos to upgrade the medical waste treatment system in the receiving hospitals, provide technical support for medical personnel, grass-roots civil servants and other key posts to enhance their capabilities. As the largest developing country, the People’s Republic of China is a firm supporter, active participant, and important contributor to South-South Cooperation. UNDP appreciates being a partner to both the People’s Republic of China and Lao PDR to support improved medical waste management. The above-mentioned project has received support from the South-South Cooperation Assistance Funds (SSCAF), to strengthen the preparedness and responding capacity at the Asia-Pacific regional level. UNDP will collaborate with WHO in Lao PDR, MoH and MICT and several Chinese counterparts to provide advocacy, information sharing and communication support on protection against COVID-19 and its response for people in poverty and vulnerable groups - to ensure that they are not left behind and can equally benefit from the interventions to stay safe and healthy.
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13 May 2021
Ensuring vulnerable populations have access to essential healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic
Supported by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund, the technical assistance led by UNFPA and UNAIDS, and UNICEF in maintaining essential health services during COVID-19 crisis has been a crucial element to the Lao PDR response. One key element has been the pilot aimed at introducing tele-health capabilities at the sub-national level, enabling all people flexible and responsive healthcare even in times of isolation or where remote access limits direct face to face services. The pilot was designed to enable pregnant and lactating mothers to safely access health services and information, whilst also ensuring that people living with HIV could gain access to lifesaving medication and healthcare information. Ms. Khekko Saysanadeth, Head of Phakeng Health Center, Phoukhoun district, Luang Prabang province shared that “We gained new knowledge through trainings and received the necessary equipment and supplies, such as hand sanitizer, sterilizing supplies and communication equipment including loudspeakers and mobile phones to follow up on maternal and child health. After the training, we practice social distancing and set up the screening point and hand wash sinks in our center. We continue to maintain infection prevention and control and encourage visitors to wash their hands.” The technology now exists in Lao PDR for all sectors to consider how they can best deliver services to communities. This innovative approach is part of the programme to maintain essential reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services. The pilot provided some positive results and the health providers consider the tele-health capabilities as an effective and efficient way to provide care, especially in Phonthong district where access is often difficult, also without the COVID-19 pandemic. It is very useful for patients to get immediate assistance or a referral as needed and for health care providers to develop knowledge and skills with regard to early detection of at-risk pregnancies and children with danger signs. To date, 1,762 pregnant women have received telehealth consultations for ante- and postnatal care and 35,988 women have received adapted essential reproductive services. Ms. Khekko Saysanadeth added: “We make video calls and regular calls to mothers after birth and to pregnant women so they can ask questions and check in with the clinic staff, even when it is impossible to travel. If we cannot contact them, we make a call to village authorities to make an appointment to follow up on their pregnancy progress or breastfeeding after birth. The telehealth is an effective way to maintain contact with mothers and children to ensure their safety.” The tele-health consultation for antenatal and postnatal care Whilst the telehealth service is highly appreciated by both health care providers and their patients, some barriers remain including the limited telecommunication networks in remote areas and language barriers when working closely with ethnic groups like Hmong or Khmu. Hence, where internet is not available, care can still be provided over landlines and through village health volunteers or husbands to translate where there is a language problem. To further test telehealth services, the pilot has been integrated into the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Plan of Action 2021 to enable another five provincial areas, including Savannakhet, Bolikhamxai, Bokeo, Champasack and Oudomxai, to receive appropriate trainings and resources and commence implementation. The telehealth function has also been recommended to continue as part of the routine health services beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during seasonal flooding when women might become isolated. For people living with HIV, access to care was improved through the support of two Civil Society Organizations. Approximately 1,000 people living with HIV in Lao PDR were supported to receive their regular antiretroviral medication (ARVs) via three dispensing modalities to reduce the crowding at clinics and ensure those in remote locations could still access medication during provincial border closures, including fast track, individual and group modalities. People living with HIV could receive their medication in group distributions, utilizing local networks or by working with providers to ensure fast-tracked and early orders could be delivered ahead of any COVID-19 outbreak. A community guideline to provide telehealth services for people living with HIV in 11 ARV therapy sites was also developed. Approximately 50 participants including people living with HIV peers, nurses and doctors working in the treatment sites received the training on the guideline to provide remote support on ARV medication uptake and adherence, care and psychosocial support during the pandemic. The participants were trained on the techniques for provision of telehealth services, including providing updated messages on the COVID-19 situation and latest healthcare information for targeted groups. Ms. Daovone Outhaivong, a volunteer from Luang Prabang province, shared that “Before the pandemic, all patients came to get the antiretroviral medication themselves. But during the lockdown, this was not possible with the border closures. We have around 30 patients who were mainly from disadvantaged and low-income groups and live far away from Luang Prabang town. So to make sure they all received their medication, we delivered the medication to them using motorbikes and local couriers. After the lockdown, we continue to provide information and knowledge to prevent COVID-19 transmission. We also received a training on how to provide tele-health services to targeted groups and I found it very useful”. “The project took a sustainable approach, building ownership and fostering innovation. Local actors were supported to plan actions based on global good practice. National capacities built under this project maintained and increased in some cases essential health services such as ante- and postnatal care, despite the COVID-19 crisis. Based on the findings, the practices will progressively be scaled up to expand healthcare services to the most vulnerable populations throughout the country.” said Ms Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative.
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30 April 2021
Leave No One Behind - Establishing the Basis for Social Protection Floors in Lao PDR
Over the past decade, Lao PDR has seen high economic growth and poverty reduction. And yet, a fifth of the population continues to live around or below the national poverty line. Maternal and child mortality are high compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. Malnutrition and stunting affect many children. A fifth of all students do not complete school, due to financial barriers. The country is in the beginning stages of developing its social protection system, and as such current coverage is low, at just 15% of the working-age population. To tackle these problems, in April 2020, the Government adopted its first National Social Protection Strategy for 2021-2025. The Strategy is built around three main pillars: improving social health insurance, extending social security and establishing the groundwork for social assistance programmes. To support the Government in the implementation of the Strategy, the UN Joint Programme on Social Protection was established under joint operation of ILO, UNICEF and UNCDF. The Programme has two integrated components: institutional development support to the Government of Lao PDR and design and pilot of the Mother and Early Childhood Grant to demonstrate the benefits of social protection The interventions proposed have multiplying effects in several SDGs, expecting to directly impact on poverty reduction, nutritional gains, reduction of socio-economic inequalities, improvement of gender equality markers, and overall system sustainability. “We do believe that to deliver the results that are needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and truly “leave no one behind”, we have to go at scale. And the only way to go at scale is to work with national structures and to build-up a national programme,” shared Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator for Lao PDR. Funding the pilot test of the Strategy in two of the poorest districts in Lao PDR, Mr. Jean-Bernard Carrasco, Ambassador of Australia to Lao PDR for 2018-2021, said on behalf of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT): “We are providing funding so that we can test the social protection pilot in the south of the country. And our hope is that what has been tested is something that the Lao Government will be able to, with others support, roll-out nationally particularly to help women and young children to be able to benefit the most and particularly poor children and poor women.” “This will be an early and important step to benefit people, especially women and children who have health and nutrition problems. The best practices learned from this programme will be a model for scaling up to broader areas of the country,” said Dr. Yangkou Yangluexay, Director General, Department of Planning and International Cooperation, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. The UN Joint Programme on Social Protection supports the Government of Lao PDR to plan, prepare, implement and monitor the National Social Protection Strategy 2025. It aims to generate evidence to show that social protection is feasible and impactful even in low-income countries and in this way, to secure greater domestic investment in social protection. This Programme allows UN agencies to pool their expertise and reduce overlaps in their support to the Government of Lao PDR. It will accelerate progress towards SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG2 (Zero Hunger), SDG16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals). The Programme is financed by the Joint SDG Fund and DFAT Australia. The story was created by UN Joint Programme on Social Protection and UN Resident Coordinator in Lao PDR.
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24 February 2021
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