With proper nurture, the sky is the limit: the UN in Lao PDR marks Children’s Day and Arbor Day
01 June 2020
The impressive Acacia tree, guarding the UN House in Vientiane, is one of the biggest in the country and has been standing in its place long before the UN House was built, indeed, long before the United Nations was founded in 1945. Since then, never has it witnessed changes like the recent ones. Restrictions, hand sanitizers, temperature checks, eye-catchy posters and half-empty streets have become omnipresent.
However, as 1 June marks 50 days without new COVID-19 confirmed in Lao PDR, Lao schoolchildren are gradually returning to school. A few days before, the UN House was filled with cheerful laughs of a small group of kids, hungry for new experiences after staying at home since March. Setting an admirable example of physical distancing and handwashing for the grown-ups, the group came to share their opinions on the future they want. The visit was organized by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers and Children (NCAWMC) and the Lao Women’s Union, in cooperation with the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Lao PDR, in view of the upcoming International Children’s Day.
1 June in Lao PDR marks two occasions of special significance, International Children’s Day and National Arbor Day. The two observances have more in common than meets the eye.
“Both the children that make up the future generation of Lao PDR and the trees of the magnificent forests of the country are long-term investments into the future. The seeds we are planting today will bring results for many years to come”, said Ms. Sara Sekkenes, the UN Resident Coordinator in Lao PDR, on this double occasion.
This time, Children’s Day in Lao PDR emphasizes good practices for children to stay safe from COVID-19, for a healthy future of the Lao Generation 2030. The Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), supported by UNICEF, UNESCO and WFP, has been working tirelessly to grant every child the possibility to return safely back to school.
“Preventing COVID-19 should not mean preventing education. With the new normal, no child should be stopped from learning, and they have to be supported in implementing the recommendations,” said Beate Dastel, UNICEF Lao PDR Representative a.i. “UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education to find ways to prevent dropout and give every school-age child an opportunity to reach as high as they can”, she added.
While healthy nutrition is a precondition for a strong immune system and full life potential, for many children in Lao PDR, school lunches are the only nutritious meal of the day. To help household access to food for vulnerable families during the COVID-19 pandemic, WFP has recently supported the Government in distributing take-home rations of food that would otherwise have been cooked in the school.
And as a child’s development requires time, efforts and care, so do the unique Lao forests. Since the 1990s, by when decades of logging had reduced the forest cover to 40% of the country, Lao PDR has now managed to increase it to 58%. This year, the Government set a target to plant 11 million trees for Arbor Day and to increase the share of forest to 70%. Several of the UN Country Team members work together to support the Government in forest management and restoration, implementing the Green Growth Strategy and promoting the Lao natural heritage.
“The national development of Lao PDR is connected to forest resources in many ways. Trees play their role in combating climate change, reducing air pollution, preserving biodiversity and ecosystems which contribute to healthy and nutritious diets. The wellbeing of the Lao people depends on all of this’, - said Mr. Nasar Hayat, Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in Lao PDR.
To raise awareness with the young generation on the interconnection of a healthy lifestyle, environment and our common future, the UN agencies have been implementing various initiatives, such as the “Me, My Body, My Planet, My Future” campaign by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and educational activities on preventing solid waste pollution by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Accelerator Lab team.
Having learned more about the UN and shared their hopes and aspirations for the future, the children came to say goodbye to the Acacia tree on their way from the UN House. As the Lao children and youth are exploring the opportunities in front of them, and the Lao forests are expanding and raising higher towards the sky, the UN in Lao PDR continues working to support them in reaching their full potential.