The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is one of the world’s least developed countries. It is landlocked and mountainous, with significant parts of the country still inaccessible by road. More than two thirds of Laos' 6.9 million population live in rural areas which remain largely undeveloped.
Laos is ethnically diverse with a great variety of languages and customs: 49 ethnic groups are officially recognized by the government. Health, nutrition and literacy indicators of people living in remote areas of the country are significantly lower than national averages, particularly for women.
Food insecurity is widespread throughout the country and alarmingly high in rural areas. As WFP’s Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA 2007) found, two thirds of the rural population in Laos are food insecure or at risk of food insecurity should one or more livelihood shocks occur. Ethnic groups living in remote areas and rural children are particularly vulnerable: every second child under five years of age in rural Laos is chronically malnourished (stunted).
Laos is also ranked as the world’s most heavily bombed country (per capita): vast areas are still contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO) which continues to cause death and injury. The presence of UXO is directly connected to food insecurity as vast areas of land, particularly in remote places, remain unsafe for agricultural production.
WFP is working to connect farmers to markets through the Purchase for Progress initiative. Learn more.
www.wfp.org/content/wfp-annual-report-2010-englishIt is often said that we are defi ned by how we handle a moment of crisis. In 2009, Lao PDR was confronted by two major disasters threatening the food security of thousands of people. The World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners rose to the challenge..
In addition, WFP operates a School Meals programme to assist Government with improving access to primary school education in remote areas. In close partnership with the Ministry of Education, WFP provides daily mid-morning snacks to primary school children, and food rations the students take home to their families. These meals and rations work as a powerful incentive for both children and their parents, adding to and reinforcing the value of education, as well as helping to improve the nutritional status of entire families in the short and long term. Ultimately, education helps to break the cycle of poverty - educated children grow into men and women who tend to be more productive and as a result earn more, and perhaps most importantly, are more likely to send their own children to school.
In addition to this development programme, WFP operates a Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) to meet the immediate food needs of villages that have lost their crops as a result of floods, droughts or other natural disasters. The PRRO addresses the longer-term needs of chronically food insecure villages by implementing Food-for-Work activities to create or rehabilitate assets relevant for long-term household food security, such as paddy land, roads, bridges and fishponds. To compensate communities for their work, WFP provides rice to relieve the immediate food security pressure. These activities are implemented in partnership with the Laos Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
WFP also collaborates closely with UXO clearance organisations to decontaminate once fertile lands. This programme is critical to giving people the opportunity to regain self sufficiency by making land available to grow their own crops. WFP supports these efforts through food-for-work activities during the planting and growing season.
With Feeding the Future WFP takes a community-based approach to nutrition education. The project focuses on ethnic groups living in remote areas of Laos, where chronic malnutrition of children has been shown to be particularly prevalent (CFSVA 2007). WFP trains government staff to educate women of reproductive age and other care-givers about good nutrition habits which are culturally accepted and adaptable. The village-based trainings are given in three different ethnic languages and are adapted to the respective cultural contexts using innovative learning materials and techniques. In 2010, WFP will partner with up to 10 international NGOs to implement this training in several provinces.