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Water and sanitation


Water and sanitation

girl washing hands with soap
© UNICEF/2013/S.Nazer

Lao PDR has the most water resources of any Asian country per-capita, but much of it is unsafe. Drinking water can be contaminated with harmful chemicals and human waste, causing a variety of health issues. UNICEF works in Lao PDR to help ensure children and families in homes and school have access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Diarrhoeal diseases are responsible for one third of all undernutrition cases and one tenth of deaths among Lao children under the age of 5. Frequent episodes of diarrhoea in the first two years of a child’s life can lead to stunted growth and irreversible cognitive damage.

Many rural communities are unaware of appropriate sanitation and hygiene practices. Over a third of Laotians lack proper sanitation, practising ‘open defecation’, and only 19% of children’s faeces are disposed of safely.

Strikingly, less than half of Lao PDR’s 9000 primary schools have both a functional water supply and toilet facilities. Access to improved water and sanitation in schools influences rates of enrolment, attendance, retention and learning achievement, particularly affecting girls and those living in rural areas, where school facilities are often poor.

UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme supports Lao PDR to achieve Millennium Development Goal 7, which specifically targets children’s rights to survival and development through increased, equitable and sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation services, and improved hygiene.

At national level, UNICEF supports the Ministry of Education and Sports to provide schools with hygiene education using the Participatory Tool Kit for Hygiene Education – a set of teaching aids known as the Blue Box.

UNICEF works towards supporting communities to improve sanitation and eliminate open defecation, and promotes hand-washing, household water treatment and safe water storage. We also ensure that communities, schools and health centers have access to safe water and support gender-appropriate facilities. UNICEF’s technical staff also monitors school WASH facilities.

UNICEF also creates the right environment for the ‘community-led total sanitation approach’ which enables communities to build their own sanitation infrastructure without depending on external financial or material assistance.




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