Laos faces many challenges in the health sector, including a shortage of adequately trained personnel, weak infrastructure, limited ability to conduct surveillance of infectious diseases and respond to outbreaks, limited maternal and child health care coverage, and an overstretched health care workforce. Providing education and work for people with disabilities remains a serious problem in Laos. Due to its location in the heart of the Mekong region and rapid socioeconomic changes, including increased commerce and migration across its borders, Laos faces heightened pandemic infectious disease threats. Maternal and child mortality rates are among the highest in the region, with almost 20,000 children under the age of five dying each year from diarrhea, malnutrition, and respiratory diseases.
As part of our regional health program, USAID works in Laos to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases—such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis—and of pandemic threats like avian influenza. Due in part to this assistance, HIV/AIDS prevalence has declined by 50 percent in the past five years. USAID also supports drug quality monitoring and management, and works to strengthen laboratory testing methods to identify counterfeit or sub-quality drugs.
USAID seeks to further reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Laos and to mitigate the impact of the disease on key affected populations and their families, by strengthening the government’s HIV/AIDS program capabilities. A USAID-developed HIV/AIDS comprehensive prevention package currently is used in six provinces.
Building on our successful support for the national avian influenza program, USAID is strengthening the ability of the Government of Laos to predict and identify new pathogens emerging from wild animal populations. The support is helping to mobilize human and animal health agencies to collaboratively respond to outbreaks, enabling early containment that is protecting public health in the country and throughout the region.