Strengthening Lao Social Service Workforce

UNICEF and KOICA Strengthen Lao Social Service Workforce Capacity in Psychosocial Support for Children and Families

Somsavanh Ounthavy and Karen Ho
Group photo
UNICEF Laos/2022
07 June 2022

To strengthen Psychological First Aid (PFA) and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services in Lao PDR, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MOLSW), with support from KOICA and UNICEF, has been helping to strengthen social service workforce capacity in PFA and MHPSS since 2021.

The collaboration, which is part of the "Integrated Programme for Climate Resilience and Empowerment in Attapeu Province (IPCREA) 2019-2023", has helped support the development and launch of the first-ever national PFA and MHPSS training manual and subsequent rollout trainings at the national and provincial levels. The accompanying MHPSS booklets for Children, Adolescents and Parents were also developed and disseminated to improve communities’ understanding about mental well-being.

In July 2021, MOLSW conducted the training of trainers on PFA and MHPSS for 27 representatives (19 female and 8 male) from multiple sectors, including Social Welfare, Health, Education, Lao Women’s Union, Lao Youth Union, National University of Laos and CSOs.  Participants learned about their roles and responsibilities to identify and respond to the psychosocial needs of vulnerable children and women in crisis events, and later assisted and facilitated the rollout trainings in the three provinces of Xayaboury, Attapeu, and Xiengkhouang. Since August 2021, a total of 132 social service workers (54 female and 78 male) have been trained.

"This training covers contextualized examples, practical cases, and useful tips for frontline social workers on the provision of a wide range of PFA and MHPSS services tailored to the needs of the affected people, from immediate first aid to long-term resilience building and recovery," said Mr. Khamsouk Somphavong, Deputy Head of Child Protection and Assistance Division, Department of Social Welfare of the MOLSW.

UNICEF Laos/2021/KHo
PFA and MHPSS training of trainers in Vientiane Capital

One of the individuals to join the training organised in Xiengkhouang province in April 2022 is Mr. Phonexay Saengphachan, a district LYU representative from Xiengkhouang.

"I have worked with the community for ten years, and it has always been challenging to talk about mental health with them. In this training, I learned a lot about reaching out to survivors and important communication tips, I will share what I learnt with my colleagues," he explained.

The training manual has been further adopted and modified for use by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Counselling Department for teachers’ training of the National University of Laos.

Based on the lesson learned and positive feedback from the training participants, MOLSW and UNICEF plan to scale up the PFA and MHPSS training to all provinces in Lao PDR.

"With recent emergency situations like the 2018 and 2019 flooding in Attapeu province and the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased need for good mental health and psychosocial support services in Lao PDR. UNICEF is proud to provide support in developing the capacity of essential social workers in delivering life-saving services to people in need." said Ms. Young Joo Lee, OiC Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF Lao PDR.

Useful links:

  • The Psychological First Aid (PFA) and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS Training Module in English and Lao: link
  • The Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing Booklet for Parents During and After Emergencies in English and Lao: link
  • The Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing Booklet for Children and Adolescents During and After Emergencies in English and Lao: link