Source: Lao News Agency
In 2020, Vice Governors from all 18 provinces of the Lao PDR convened on World Children’s Day and made the commitment to end child poverty in the country by increasing investments in key areas, such as education, child protection, health, nutrition, sanitation, and social protection among others.
To follow up on the implementation of these commitments, the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MICT), with the support of UNICEF, organized a media visit to two of the 18 provinces, Xaysomboun and Borikhamxay, from Jan 23-27.
During the visit to Xaysomboun, the media team led by Deputy Director General, Mass Media Department, MICT, Mr. Vannasin Simmavong met with the Vice Governor of Xaysomboun Tongmua Suako who said that authorities in Xaysomboun have planned several activities to help tackle child poverty in the province following the most recent high-level meeting in Vientiane in 2022 on the progress towards the aforementioned commitments to reducing child poverty, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the key commitments include the reduction of stunting and wasting among children under five; an increase in the number of children below one year of age receiving their routine immunization; an increase in the number of open defecation-free districts and villages across the Lao PDR; create more opportunities for the meaningful youth participation, especially in implementing mitigation and adaptation measures against climate change and natural disasters.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed children. It is more important than ever that we pull together and ensure Lao children and their families – especially the most vulnerable – are included in our recovery plans,” said Mr. Tongmua.
Mr. Tongmua emphasized that further efforts are particularly needed in health, with four indicators relating to the reduction of maternal mortality, increase in the rate of assisted childbirths, vaccination rate, and consumption rate of clean water having not yet been reached. However, three indicators for education are on track to being achieved, including the rate of primary school graduation which has now reached more than 90 percent in the province.
Following this visit to Mr. Tongmua in Xaysomboun province, the media team later visited Borikhamxay and met with the province’s Vice Governor, Mr. Khamvene Panyanouvong.
Mr. Khamvene noted that provincial authorities are working hard to implement policies and laws connected to the various international conventions related to women and children, especially the Provincial Commission on Advancement of Women, Mothers, and Children (PCAWMC), with the aim of improving the situation of mothers and children in the province.
“Our province is focusing our activities on maternal and child health in 284 villages. We are closely monitoring the health of our children, providing counseling on family planning and health care services for pregnant women and vaccination, and supporting the implementation of COVID-19 preventative measures across different sectors,” said Mr. Khamvene.
He further noted that Borikhamxay is now an open defecation-free province and is also on track to meeting its commitments to addressing child poverty, including its goals of preventing excessive rates of malnutrition and sustaining rates of routine vaccination among children in the province.
In regards to youth participation, children and young people in both provinces, as well as other provinces, have now their own platform to express their views. The youth-led media group “Open Health Open Airwaves” has been established in all provinces and provided the means through which children can express their opinions on the topics that affect their lives, such as nutrition, health, education, early marriage, violence against children and others, via the medium of radio and social media.
Two members from these youth media groups, Nadia Somduangprachan and Kai Prasouk Khammi told the media team that the youth media initiative is very important in the development of young people’s capacity.
“We are proud to have had the opportunity to receive training in communication skills and the production of youth radio programs, including script writing, conducting interviews, recording news, and producing social media content. For children, being involved and having adults listen to their problems makes them feel important, which could potentially leave a lasting and positive impact on their whole life,” said Nadia and Kai.
The youth media initiative “Open Health Open Airwaves” is being led by Lao National Radio with the support of UNICEF.
The media team has also interviewed representatives of children who went to a high-level meeting to review the implementation of child rights in the Lao PDR on Nov 14-18, 2022.
Ms. Panayang Yiathong told reporters that she was proud to have the opportunity to represent children to participate in the celebration of World Children’s Day 2022 and the rally in Vientiane. She said that Education is key to empowering young girls and helping them achieve their dreams. “I want to see every child in the Lao PDR have access to quality education. I work with my peers in schools and our teacher to promote this issue by organizing Youth Talk on this topic with our school students.”
Mr. Sithong Wang also told reporters that the problem of drugs is harmful to the health and physical and cognitive development of children, including the future of children. He also mentioned the importance of preserving the environment: “Environmental degradation exposes children to more health risks and hazards that can deprive them of their rights. I want to see all children and youths living in a safer and cleaner environment. I want to see children and young people living in a safer and cleaner environment. Therefore, I will represent the youth to help promote the campaign in schools as well as in the community in Saysomboun province as well as in the whole country.”
“UNICEF would like to congratulate and recognize the tremendous work of our development, civil society and private sector partners, and United Nation sister agencies for their unwavering support of our work to fulfill the rights of every child, everywhere in the Lao PDR,” said Mr. Tabongphet Phouthavong, UNICEF Communication Specialist. “I also thank the Vice Governors of Xaysomboun and Borikhamxay provinces and all provincial authorities for the privilege of working together for the benefit of all Lao children,” he added.
During the visit to Xaysomboun and Borikhamxay provinces, with the support from UNICEF, the Lao National Radio handover IT equipment for the youth media team, including mobile phones for social media promotion of children issues, risk communication as well as community engagement on COVID-19 prevention and control. This kind of visit will also be conducted in other provinces of the Lao PDR in 2023.