|© UNICEF Lao PDR/2008/ Holmes|
|Lao PDR Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith is presented with a packet of soap promoting safe water, sanitation and hygiene in Vientiane.|
By Tom Winkler
VIENTIANE, Lao PDR, 28 March 2008 – Lao PDR declared 2008 to be the National Year of Sanitation, illustrating the Government’s commitment to UNICEF’s global campaign on water and sanitation. A recent ceremony attracted more than 1,000 people, including Government ministers, school children and representatives from over 120 villages throughout the country.
“I would like to urge all public and private organizations both at central and local levels to fulfil their tasks and to achieve the objectives of this National Year for Sanitation,” said Lao PDR Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.
Led by the country's Water Resources and Environmental Agency, the declaration ceremony featured educational activities and exhibitions. The government is encouraging active participation at all levels in addressing the future of water and sanitation.
Speaking for the United Nations, Ms. Sonam Yanchen Rana, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Lao PDR pointed out that low sanitation coverage continued to be among the greatest threats facing children in Lao PDR. She said a recent cholera outbreak in the south of the country highlighted the importance of good sanitation and hygiene.
Focus on schools
Since 2002, UNICEF has remained committed to addressing safe water, sanitation and hygiene in Lao PDR, with a focus on community outreach as well as the needs of rural schools.
|© UNICEF Loa PDR/2008/ Souvannavong|
|Primary school students taking part in a classroom hygiene activity using a UNICEF-supported kit called the 'Blue Box'.|
A unique educational package called the 'Blue Box' has been specially developed for schoolchildren. Supported by UNICEF and developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the Blue Box is a participatory, interactive toolkit for primary schools. The kit contains games, story cards, songs, posters and other materials containing key hygiene messages.
UNICEF hopes that through proper education about water and sanitation, transmission of water-bourne diseases can be avoided.
As few as 20 per cent of people in the country currently have access to adequate sanitation.
Since 2002, UNICEF has supported the construction of gravity fed water systems for over 149 villages as well as opening over 1,120 ground water sources. Through a well established process of community dialogue and contribution, nearly 25,000 family latrines have been constructed through UNICEF support.
“We are still facing numerous challenges in providing safe drinking water and basic sanitation. The situation is particularly acute in remote areas where access is difficult and information is lacking,” said the Minister of Health, Dr. Ponmek Dalaloy.