Laos has one of the highest rate of poverty in South East Asia. The World Bank estimates that a bit less than 20% of its population lives below the poverty line. Even though the situation has improved over the last decade, its population remains still vulnerable with more than 75% of the work force working in agriculture. People struggle to transition from agricultural sector towards sectors where they could contribute to a fast development of the country. Assessments made by the Asian Development Bank highlighted the fact that Laos is not providing children with access to a sufficiently high-quality of education they need to successfully transition into skilled non-farming jobs and sustainably build their income to beyond vulnerability levels. Only 20% of Grade 5 students develop the Lao language needed to cope at the secondary level. This impacts on key subjects such as English language, technology and especially mathematics where performance was critically low. This creates high drop-out rates through secondary education and limits results for those that remain.
Education is not the only issues that Laos is facing, access to health care is still an important challenge. Although it has improved in the last decade with the implementation of several health reforms. The quality of the health care system is still very low and expensive in Laos. Hospitals are often understaffed, and still lacking proper training and adequate equipment. Access to quality treatment in rural areas of Laos is barely existent, and family have to travel during days to get their loved ones to the nearest hospital.
The FFF is currently working with the Lao Ministry of Education & Sports to develop a pilot of the New Generation Schools programme: NGSL. This pilot aims to replicate the substantial achievements of NGS in Cambodia, transforming educational outcomes through improved teaching, school governance and key subjects for the 21st century.
NGSL aspires to drive key changes in governance, recruitment, management and teacher training, optimization of existing resources and improvement of schools facilities. One of its goal is to enable children from poor backgrounds, girls and the disable to access a quality education, free of corruption or abuse through a fair admission process.
The FFF is both the funder and implementer of the New Generation programme in Laos.
In October 2018, the FFF, and Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York visited Vientiane Capital to kick off the start of the programme. They visited several potential school sites, and met with the Minister of Education.
The FFF is very proud to have collaborated with Friends Without a Border from the planning stages in the creation of the Laos Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) in Laos. It is the first full-service paediatric hospital in northern Laos and currently includes: an Emergency Room, inpatient and outpatient departments, laboratory, pharmacy, radiology, lecture rooms, and a library to teach paediatric medicine to the future leaders of the hospital. In early 2016 an Intensive Care Unit opened and an operations theatre opened and is fully functional. In October 2018, LFHC expanded its Neonatal unit. The new Neonatal Unit now occupies what had been the children’s ward of the Luang Prabang Provincial Hospital.
The FFF is also part of the board directors of Friends Without Borders which allows the Foundation to fully continue to provide support to the LFHC and be part of its strategy development. The FFF is thrilled to see the impact the hospital is already making to the well-being of the children of Luang Prabang. Already many tens of thousands of children have been cared for by the hospital.
In Luang Prabang and Nambak, the FFF has built accommodation facilities for children living in government care by replacing existing buildings with modern clean and safe facilities.