Archive for ‘Health’

March 7, 2014

The urban-rural divide for safe water, sanitation in Laos

Asian Correspondent

The urban-rural divide for safe water, sanitation in Laos

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://asiancorrespondent.com/120356/urban-rural-divide-for-safe-water-sanitation-in-laos/

Mar 07, 2014 6:17PM UTC

Lao children collect water from a public standpipe shared by their rural village. Photo: Sean Kimmons/IRIN

VIENTIANE (IRIN) – Laos has been growing at 8 percent a year over the past decade but rural areas, where most people still live, are being left behind in terms of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, health experts warn.

Nearly half of the Lao rural population practices open defecation, the second highest rate in Southeast Asia, says a 2013 UN joint monitoring report.

“People in rural areas still don’t like to use the toilet,” Soulivanh Souksavath, the World Health Organization’s environmental health technical officer in Laos, told IRIN. “It’s easier for them to go into the forest and defecate.”

Urban-rural gaps in clean water and sanitation are widespread in this landlocked, mountainous country of 6.7 million people, where nearly 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas.

In 2012, only 64 percent of people in rural communities had improved sources of drinking water and 48 percent had improved sanitation facilities, compared to 88 and 91 percent in urban areas, according to government statistics.

That same year, rural areas in neighbouring Thailand had 96 percent of people with improved sources of drinking water and 97 percent with improved sanitation facilities.

A 2013 UN and governmental report indicated that “poor sanitation and unsafe water are strongly associated” with malnutrition and diarrhoea, both of which are leading causes of death in children under five.

From 1993 to 2011, Laos achieved significant reductions in under-five mortality from 170 to 79 deaths per 1,000 live births, the report added.

Still, poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, which can also pollute water sources, are linked to more than three million disease episodes and 6,000 premature deaths each year in Laos, according to a 2012 Water and Sanitation Programme report.

“If you invest in WASH, you reduce the costs in health,” Bishnu Timilsina, the country’s WASH section chief for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told IRIN.

‘Not safe to drink’

Although Laos is on track to meet its 2015 Millennium Development Goal targets for access to improved water and sanitation (80 percent and 60 percent respectively), the status of services outside the cities is questionable.

“The biggest issue is water quality,” Souksavath said. “People have access to water but it’s actually not safe to drink.”

Since water treatment plants only exist in cities, rural communities often use gravity-fed systems from mountain springs or groundwater which can be contaminated, he said.

Incidents of arsenic poisoning  from groundwater have been known to occur.

Water quality is also endangered by the country’s development boom. Mining, large-scale plantations and food-processing factories can pollute water sources, especially when illegal operations bypass the regulations, experts say.

“We have a lot of challenges right now because of the development,” Souksavath said, adding that the government should strengthen its capacity to monitor companies.

Most rural schools and health centres do not have access to WASH services, with some without running water, UNICEF’s Timilsina said.

Little government support for NGO efforts

A latrine structure being built by villagers in northern Laos. Open defecation remains a challenge in much of the country. Photo: Sean Kimmons/IRIN

Traditionally, NGOs built water and sanitation projects to help remote areas but poor construction and lack of maintenance led to many of them becoming inoperable.

“In reality we don’t know what percentage of WASH facilities is still functioning,” Timilsina said.

To create local ownership, NGOs have switched to cost-effective methods that encourage Lao people to live healthier.

In 2008, campaigners started Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) which focuses on social participation to eliminate open defecation in villages.

“If an NGO comes in and builds a toilet, often the family won’t keep it clean or maintain it,” Mona Girgis, country director for Plan International said.

Under CLTS, NGOs hope to motivate villagers to change sanitation behaviours and construct their own toilets.

In addition, NGOs are trying to set up water user groups who will be trained to maintain local water systems, Girgis said.

However, government support has been limited as there is no specific government WASH policy that outlines who manages, maintains or funds certain projects in urban and rural areas.

“There’s no clear policy to guide who will be responsible for what,” Timilsina said, adding that UNICEF will support the government in drafting a policy in the next few years.

Most projects are being implemented by NGOs and foreign donors since skilled government technicians are in short supply.

Ambitious plans

Budget expenditure is kept secret, UN officials say. “We don’t know how much from the government is allocated for the WASH sector,” Timilsina said.

Nevertheless, government officials have ambitious plans to roll out water services and on-site sanitation treatment facilities countrywide by 2020 – expected to cost US$40 million per year.

“This is well above the current spending levels, estimated at around a quarter of the needs,” the UN and governmental report noted.

Plan International’s Girgis and others are working to get the Global Sanitation Fund, a pooled donor fund, to prioritize Laos and increase aid in this sector.

“We’ve been lobbying for some time but at the moment they are waiting for government invitation to do that,” she said.

This article originally ran on the IRIN website.

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March 7, 2014

Journey Through Laos: Ethnic Minorities are Suffering

Journey Through Laos: Ethnic Minorities are Suffering

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/rosa-ellis/laos-ethnic-minorities_b_4910124.html

Rosa Ellis

Communications Manager at Health Poverty Action

Posted: 06/03/2014 12:40

Bon Hiang is a family man. He and his wife were happy for a while, when they had five healthy children.

I meet him in rural Pin Dong village, southern Laos, where he is standing in the middle of a hot and noisy crowd weighing and measuring other people’s children.

This area is home to the Sou people, an ethnic minority in Laos. Today Bon Hiang is assessing children under five in his village for malnourishment.

This village is a long bumpy drive from the nearest town. Houses here are small, flimsy, and made of wood. One communal tap – currently broken – serves the whole village, and people have little more than the food they are able to produce. Children are hungry.

Across Laos, 40% of children are malnourished, and in the poorest areas that figure is as high as 60%. Bon Hiang worked hard to support his family, but it wasn’t enough. Three of his children died because he couldn’t keep them healthy. And also, in a way, because of the ethnic group they were born into.

Travelling through Laos, meeting people from ethnic minority groups, it is clear that they have more health problems than the rest of the population. Geographical isolation, language barriers and plain old prejudice mean that certain communities are experiencing higher rates of disease and death.

Bon Hiang is working to change this. His aim is to prevent his neighbours going through what he did. Health Poverty Action provided him with the training and resources he needs to makes sure other children in his village are not malnourished, so he checks under-fives for malnutrition and teaches families about the nutritious value of the food that is available. “I want the children of our village to be healthy”, he tells me.

The marginalization of ethnic minorities is not unique to Laos. Through working with the poorest communities in 13 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, Health Poverty Action knows that it is frequently ethnic minorities that experience more poverty and worse health.

One part of the solution is working to strengthen those communities. Strengthen them by providing them with the information on health and the resources they have so far been denied. But we also need to go further, much further, and address the root cause of this problem.

Information, it seems, is the first step. Currently, most national health surveys do not break down health data by ethnicity. This means we do not have a clear picture of exactly what is leading to more disease and more deaths for ethnic minority groups. There are a variety of reasons ethnic minority groups have it worse – from local health staff not speaking their language, to living in hard to access areas – but unless the specific barriers to health are known, it is very hard to address them.

Dis aggregating health data is not without its challenges, of course. But the alternative is the continuation of the marginalization of ethnic minorities. This is not acceptable.

If health data was broken down by ethnicity, it would be clear which communities had the worst health outcomes, and why. If health data was broken down by ethnicity governments could better plan how to strengthen the health systems that support those people, and the root causes of their poor health could be tackled. And if health data was broken down by ethnicity, people like Bon Hiang would not have to fight against the odds to keep his family healthy.

Watch this interview with Bangyuan Wang, Health Poverty Action’s former country director in Laos, talking about ethnic minorities:

Health Poverty Action works in 13 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. In these countries it is often ethnic minority groups that experience the worst health. Find out about this in Laos from Bangyuan Wang, our country director.
www.healthpovertyaction.org

March 11, 2013

Taste of Laos in Richmond school garden

Taste of Laos in Richmond school garden

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/thedirt/article/Taste-of-Laos-in-Richmond-school-garden-4298443.php#photo-4220806

Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan

Updated 1:13 pm, Friday, February 22, 2013

Kert and Saeng Doungdara tend to their garden at the Verde Partnership Garden in Richmond. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

This is the third in an occasional series on urban farmers working to preserve their cultural foodways by growing heritage crops in the Bay Area. For previous installments, go to http://bit.ly/QCQKM9.

The Verde Elementary School Partnership Garden is a reclaimed treasure in urban North Richmond, a flourishing melange of row crops and ornamentals, fruit trees and butterfly plants. On our first visit 14 years ago, we saw Southeast Asians and Central Americans swapping chili peppers and beans. A Mien woman used the school kitchen to make sweet corn pancakes to share.

Since then, changes in demographics and funding have reshaped the garden; it’s still producing and teaching under the care of Bienvenida Mesa, who works for the Richmond nonprofit, Urban Tilth. Alongside her projects there’s a plot or two to spare, and Saeng and Kert Dohngdara, a Lao couple in their 70s keep up the tradition of raising Southeast Asian crops in the exotic soil of West Contra Costa County.

Laos is a complicated little country, and not all Laotians are ethnic Lao. The Lao are or were a majority of the population, mostly settled farmers along the Mekong; before the Pathet Lao took over, the ruling class was Lao. But they’re relative newcomers, having displaced the Khmu, who have ties to the Khmer of Cambodia. Farther into the highlands lived groups like the Hmong and the Mien, swidden farmers and hunters. Subgroups exist within these, based on language and customs: for example Green Hmong and White Hmong. Several groups, including Lao, Khmu and Mien, have settled in Richmond since the conflict in the former Indochina ended in 1975.

Food bridges some of the ethnic gaps. Every cook has a recipe for laab (or larb), the minced-meat salad also popular in northern Thailand. Sticky rice is a staple. The corn pancake the Mien woman made is included in the first English-language Hmong cookbook, “Cooking From the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America” (University of Minnesota Press). The Lao use herbs like dill, uncommon in Southeast Asian cuisine. Unexpected ingredients like rattan (only the shoots), water buffalo hide (yes, hide) and giant water bug (reputedly tastes like gorgonzola) turn up. Bottled essence of giant water bug is an acceptable substitute for the last. You can buy that locally nowadays, and the Dohngdaras can buy their seeds and plant starts, though like their predecessors here they still save some of their own.

They visit the school twice a week to tend their section of the garden. The harvest goes to their extended family and others in the local Lao community. Their plot includes two dry-land taro patches (“One variety for the leaves, another for the root,” Kert Dohngdara explained), dill, three kinds of basil, small incendiary bird chiles and bitter green eggplants, the aromatic knotweed that he calls pachpal and the Vietnamese call rau ram. There’s Malabar spinach, whose arrowhead-shaped leaves are cooked with meat. Some familiar plants play unfamiliar roles in Lao cuisine: “You cook the roots of lemongrass like onion, with shrimp.”

We also saw an unfamiliar herb with a perfoliate, scalloped little leaf. “I don’t know what it’s called,” Kert told us. “I didn’t plant it. The root is used for fever.” We looked it up; apparently it’s a pennywort. The Hmong call it lauj vag and treat coughs with it. Other hillfolk in Thailand apply it to cuts and wounds as a poultice. We couldn’t find its Lao name. The plant may be a holdover from the time of the Mien or some other ethnic group.

Maybe Saeng Dohngdara could have told us more about it if we could have worked through the language barrier and her shyness – she did communicate that she’d steep the root, like tea. Herbal medicine among at least some Laotian peoples is women’s province. A few years back Jan Corlett, Ellen Dean and Louis Grivetti of UC Davis interviewed Hmong women involved in a community garden in Sacramento. They reported that the older participants grew more medicinal plants than the younger ones – another case of traditional knowledge fading away as the first immigrant generation passes.

The Dohngdaras have been involved with the school garden for 17 years. Kert’s family grew rice in the Mekong Delta. He left Laos in 1980 and lived in Atlanta and Boston before relocating to the Bay Area, where he had relatives, and worked as a machinist before back problems forced him to retire. Dohngdara sometimes recruits his children and grandchildren (his oldest son is 55) to help weed and harvest, but he and Saeng keep their hands in: “It’s better than sitting at home watching TV.”

Resources

Urban Tilth’s Verde Partnership Garden page: www.urbantilth.org/gardens/verde-partnership-garden

Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan are naturalists and freelance writers in Berkeley. E-mail: home@sfchronicle.com

April 18, 2012

Press Release: Walgreens Donates More Than $9 Million Worth of Flu Vaccine to Laos

375,000 people in Laos will benefit from donation to Lao Ministry of Health

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://news.walgreens.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=5577

18 April 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill., April 18, 2012 – As flu season approaches in Southeast Asia, Walgreens (NYSE, NASDAQ: WAG) today announced a donation of 375,000 doses of seasonal flu vaccine to Lao People’s Democratic Republic (referred to as Lao PDR or Laos). The Lao PDR Ministry of Health (Lao MOH) was selected to receive the vaccine based on longstanding collaborations between the Lao MOH, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as Walgreens objective to provide vaccine to a population in need.

“This is an example of the potential value of collaboration between public health and private organizations,” said Dr. Joe Bresee, chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division. “Influenza vaccination is an important tool to reduce respiratory disease in Laos, particularly among people who are at risk for serious flu complications including pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions. We’re excited to help make this happen.”

Walgreens, which provides more flu vaccine in the United States each year than any other retailer, drugstore chain or U.S. corporation, has worked with the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help increase the number of people vaccinated against influenza in underserved communities across America. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, visited a Chicago area Walgreens this season to get her seasonal flu shot from one of its pharmacists. HHS also assisted Walgreens in the distribution of seasonal flu vaccine vouchers in select markets throughout the country the last two years, which provided free flu vaccinations for the uninsured and underinsured.

Lao PDR health officials have designated the 375,000 doses of donated flu vaccine for people at high risk of flu complications in that country, including pregnant women, seniors and people with chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease. The Walgreens donation was the result of a unique CDC-facilitated collaboration between Walgreens and the Lao MOH.

“In recent years, going back to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, we’ve demonstrated the positive impact we can have by helping to increase flu vaccination coverage while working together with government and health officials at every level,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness. “As flu season winds down here in the United States, we’re pleased to provide vaccine to the people of Laos and to work with the Ministry of Health to help launch its seasonal flu vaccination effort.”

Laos has a population of more than 6.7 million people, and during the 2009-2010 flu pandemic more than 1 million people were vaccinated against 2009 H1N1; however, the country currently does not have an ongoing seasonal flu vaccination program.

“The Ministry of Health in Laos has worked collaboratively with CDC and WHO to establish the infrastructure to implement this seasonal flu vaccination campaign. They are ready, and on April 24 the country will launch the vaccination campaign across Laos with the donated vaccine from Walgreens,” said Bresee.

The donated seasonal flu vaccine was shipped to Laos via UPS (NYSE:UPS), which provided the PharmaPort™360 air freight containers needed to keep the vaccine at the precise temperature and monitor the shipment throughout its five-day, 9,000-mile transport from UPS’s healthcare facility in the United States.

About Walgreens

As the nation’s largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2011 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens (www.walgreens.com) vision is to become America’s first choice for health and daily living. Each day, Walgreens provides nearly 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. The company operates 7,847 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.

October 24, 2011

Southeast Asia floods: How you can help

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1599021/Southeast-Asia-floods:-How-you-can-help

24 October 2011 | 12:16:45 PM | Source: SBS

It's the worst flooding the region has seen in 50 years. (AAP)

A number of organisations have set up appeals to help more than 8 million people across Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam, who have been affected by the worst monsoonal flooding the region has seen in 50 years.

Hundreds of highways in Thailand have been inundated while north-bound train routes are suspended due to the heavy floods and tropical storms.

Huge tracts of rice farmland have been damaged, increasing prices of food.

World Vision Australia is accepting secure donations online to support victims and  provide emergency kits that contain food, sanitary products and first aid medicine.

CARE Australia’s Global Emergency Fund accepts online donations for their work in the region.

The Thai branch of the Red Cross is asking for support to help three water purification teams in Thailand. Click here to donate.

Give2Asia is calling on donations to help families affected by the floods. You can make a donation by clicking here.

Flood waters have resulted in rising mosquitoes breeding leading to an increase in cases of malaria.

Buzz Off,  ‘A world without Malaria’ buys mosquito nets to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.

Save the Children Australia is asking for support to help 800,000 children that have been affected by the floods. Call 1800 760 011 or go online.

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