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WFP food support to returning migrants in Covid-19 quarantine centres in Lao PDR: building on best practices for future emergencies

VIENTIANE – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with the Government of Lao PDR and humanitarian partners, met today to discuss achievements and lessons learned from providing food assistance to returning migrant workers through the COVID-19 quarantine centres across the country.

Following the closure of borders in Laos in early 2020, WFP received official requests from the Ministry of Health to support the food and nutrition needs of returning migrant labourers in eight provinces, as well as Vientiane, the capital.

As COVID-19 infection rates spiked in neighbouring countries, an estimated 360,000 migrant workers crossed the borders to return to their homes. These quarantine centres – located in strategic places where large number of returnees passed through – played a vital role in controlling the spread of the disease in Laos.

Partnering with the Swiss Red Cross, the Lao Red Cross and World Vision International, WFP delivered three daily nutritious meals to all beneficiaries during their quarantine period. The provision of daily meals in these centres ensured that returnees could remain in quarantine for their mandatory quarantine period, while helping to maintain their health and wellbeing and reducing the financial burden on them and on their families. 

Meal distributions were conducted adhering to strict COVID-19 prevention and control measures, ensuring beneficiaries wore face masks, exercised hand hygiene and maintained physical distancing. In some quarantine centres, beneficiaries received their meals with the help of QR code scanning on mobile devices, and sustainable food packaging materials for the meals were used where possible.

During the two years of operation, WFP and cooperating partners provided food to an average 1,260 people a day, including pregnant women, children and young mothers in quarantine centres across nine provinces in Laos. During the peak of operations during July/August 2021, a monthly average of 4,800 migrant workers received daily nutritious meals. WFP’s partners were responsible for the distribution of meals in quarantine centres which were prepared daily by local restaurants. The preparation and distribution of meals from restaurants in the vicinity helped boost local markets, thereby supporting farmers and traders in the provinces. WFP ensured technical assistance to implementation partners on meal composition according to nutrition, food safety and quality guidelines and recommendations, as well as monitoring.

Between June 2020 and May 2022, WFP and partners distributed over 2.8 million nutritious meals to over 102,500 people (including 50,500 women) at a cost of over US$ 4.7 million. In addition to this, the Government of Lao PDR also provided internal funding support to expanding quarantine centres, isolation centres and field hospitals as required. Donations from the Governments of Switzerland, France, Germany, the Republic of Korea and Luxembourg, as well as the World Health Organization, the Japan Association for WFP, World Vision Taiwan and multilateral contributions to WFP enabled meals to be provided, even in times of highest demand, coping with the fluctuating numbers of returnees in quarantine centres.

With the end of the third wave of COVID-19 in Lao PDR, the Ministry of Health, together with the COVID-19 Task Force Committee, agreed to close all remaining COVID-19 quarantine centres on 13 May 2022. Today’s workshop was attended by health authorities and humanitarian partners in Vientiane. The lessons learned and best practices will help inform effective delivery of food support in future emergencies.

Existing donors to WFP’s Lao PDR programme include France, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme,  Japan, Korea, Russia, the United States and private donors.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.


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For more information please contact (email address:

Ildiko Hamos, WFP/ Laos
Tel. +856 (0)21 330 300 ext. 2229,
Mob. +856 (0)20 7717 7913