Located in Southeast Asia, the scenic country of Laos is home to 150 colorful ethnic groups, many who still follow ancient tribal traditions as they make their living off the land in the mountainous regions of the country.  With sparse population and few natural resources Laos has not had the ability to adequately serve the ethnic groups living in the remote villages of the country.

The second poorest country in the region, Laos has high levels of malnutrition, inadequate sanitation and limited access to safe water.  Many of the ethnic groups continue to practice slash and burn methods of agriculture on the steep slopes around their villages.  Traditional crops, supplemented by the food  they can collect from the jungle provides sustenance but not always balanced nutrition, especially for growing children.

ADRA Canada has been working in Laos since 1994, helping ethnic minority groups develop gravity-fed water systems and build latrines. As they built trust and relationship with the people they began conducting health education and income generation programs.

The current program that ADRA Canada is running in Laos is with the Khmu ethnic group in the Houn District of the Oudomxay Province. 1300 households in 10 different communities have been targeted.  It is estimated that in this region of Laos 50% of the children under five are stunted because of malnutrition.  Infant mortality rates have been three times higher than in the urban areas of the country. Nutrition education, kitchen gardens, and cooking classes have improved the health of everyone in the village and saved the lives of many children.

Loi’s Story

Loi is 25 years old. She has two children and lives a remote village in a mountainous region of northern Laos. Her family survives from what they are able to grow in their garden and gather from the jungle. They drew water from a river in a valley far below their house. It was difficult to carry enough water for all of their needs. They had no washroom facilities and they were often ill.

A few months ago ADRA began working with her community to improve their health. We provided expertise and materials, the villagers dug trenches and laid hose and pipe. Pure spring water, from a source high above the village, is now delivered by an underground system to a storage tank close to the community. From the tank, the water is diverted to taps distributed throughout the village.

Now, getting water for bathing, cooking, washing clothes, and drinking is as easy as turning a tap!

To improve the sanitation of the community and prevent illness, each household was provided with a latrine.

Loi says, “Our children are now bathing every day and washing their hands before eating. Now there is hardly any more sickness in the village, not to mention sad funerals of young children. Thank you ADRA!”