A new milestone in Lao PDR’s bid to achieve total sanitation.

Borikhamxay province becomes the first province to receive an open defecation free status.

31 July 2020
UNICEF Laos/2020/AKarki

Borikhamxay, Lao PDR, 31 July 2020: Lao PDR has made a breakthrough in its sanitation drive as Borikhamxay Province became the first province to be declared open defecation free (ODF) by the Ministry of Health. After years of tireless efforts from the community supported by the Government in partnership with UNICEF, the province has led the way for the country’s target to end open defecation by 2025. 

The historical feat was celebrated amidst an event in the provincial meeting hall attended by the Provincial Governor, Minister for Health, President of the Lao Women’s Union, Deputy Representative of UNICEF, Provincial Governors and Provincial Health Departments from five nearby provinces, and the District Governors in Bolikhamxay Province.

“I would like to congratulate the people of Borikhamxay and the provincial government for this important achievement,” said Associate Prof. Dr. Bounkhong Sihavong, Minister of Health. “The people of Borikhamxy have taken us one step to closer to our goal of ending open defecation by 2025, by setting an example to other provinces to follow.” 

Poor sanitation is one of the biggest hurdles to the development of a country as it impacts the health and education of the people. Open defecation is often the cause of water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera that leads to malnutrition and stunting among children. According to Lao Social Indicator Survey II, about 1,500,000 of people in Lao PDR still practice open defecation. 

“Ending open defecation is the first step towards total sanitation, UNICEF is proud to be part of this mission led by community and Government in Borikhamxay province,” said Ms. Beate Dastel, UNICEF Representative a.i. “Improved sanitation and proper hygiene behavior of mothers and children are imperative for the best growth and development of children,” she added. 

As building toilets does not always guarantee improved sanitation and hygiene, the Government of Lao PDR introduced a ‘Community-led Total Sanitation’ approach in 2008 to mobilize community members. 

Since 2015, the Center for Water and Environmental Health, the Department of Health and the Lao Women’s Union in Borikhamxay province and UNICEF worked together to support a district-wide approach to stop open defecation. As part of the intervention, a district-level ODF plan was developed and implemented by the Provincial and District Multi-Stakeholders Committee formed with officials from various government agencies. The intervention in Borikhmxay is expected to benefit more than 300,000 people.

The provincial government will continue to mobilize communities to maintain Open Defecation Free status while other provinces will accelerate their efforts to reach the same status.

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Tabongphet Phouthavong
Communication Specialist
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