localisation : Laos


Context and News:

Laos, officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia with a population of 7.5 million people. The country is bordered by Myanmar, China, Thailand, and Cambodia. Its capital is Vientiane, the official language is Lao, and the official currency is the Laotian kip. Laos ranks 140th out of 191 countries in the Human Development Index.

The country has a rich and diverse history marked by revolutions and wars, and it holds the unfortunate distinction of being the most bombed country in human history. Laos is also ethnically diverse, with around 160 different ethnic groups. However, human rights violations remain a major concern in the country. Laos is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, with children particularly vulnerable to poverty, forced labor, child marriage, trafficking, violence, and malnutrition.

While poverty has decreased over the past decades, 23% of Laos’s total population still lives below the poverty line. Approximately 80% of this population is employed in the agricultural sector. Unfortunately, children are the hardest hit by poverty, leaving them malnourished and deprived of educational opportunities.

Children’s Situation:

Around 60% of Laos’s total population consists of children and youth, making them the most vulnerable to the challenges facing Laos today. They are also more susceptible to child labor, child marriage, and child trafficking. Laos has worked on various growth initiatives to improve children’s lives, showing improvements in the quality of education, health services, and child protection.

33% of girls are married before the age of 18, constituting a violation of human rights, and the emotional damage caused by forced unions is profound. This is the highest percentage in Southeast Asia.

Child labor, defined as work in hazardous jobs or sectors, poses a significant risk to children in Laos. Indeed, 42% of children aged 5 to 17 in Laos are engaged in child labor. About 24% of these working children have never attended school, while 71% have dropped out. Poverty is the main cause of child labor, and working children are more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. Trafficking is another major problem in Laos.

SOS Children’s Villages in Laos:

SOS Children’s Villages Laos has been supporting children and youth deprived of parental care or at risk of losing it in Laos since 1995 through 6 Children’s Villages in Samneua, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khouang, Vientiane, Savannakhet, and Paksé, benefiting 690 children. Since its inception, about a hundred families have benefited from family strengthening programs, 230 youth have been supported on the path to independence through employability strengthening programs, advocacy activities have been organized, enabling children to engage with the community, over 3,300 children have been cared for in kindergartens, and over 4,000 medical treatments have been provided. In total, nearly 4,400 children, adolescents, and adults have been supported.

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