For Immediate Release

Press Release

Vientiane, Lao PDR - On June 17, 2024, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a new five-year partnership to tackle health security threats, prepare for future risks, and build on significant gains made during the COVID-19 pandemic.  USAID intends to provide $10 million to WHO under this new partnership.

The announcement took place at a launch event in Vientiane, with Minister of Health Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith joining U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR Heather Variava and WHO Representative Dr. Timothy Armstrong.

“Strengthening health security, and protecting our people, is a priority for Lao PDR,” noted Minister Bounfeng.  “Based on epidemiological data, in 2023 Lao PDR faced more than 30 outbreaks and other acute public health events, compounding other challenges.  Therefore, the Ministry of Health focuses on strengthening our capacity to prepare and respond to public health emergencies continuously.  This effort includes developing the National Work Plan for public health emergency preparedness and response, and reviewing the plan to ensure response capacity to health security threats.  We document and use lessons learned to inform strategic planning, and to ensure practical and rapid response to events at national, regional and global levels.”

Minister Bounfeng added, “As a Member State, Lao PDR has adopted the International Health Regulations (IHR) and is committed to strengthening its health security capacity.  This is a crucial agenda for the country, which requires multisectoral collaboration to fulfill IHR implementation effectively - and there are multiple sectors and partners that have contributed to this field.  USAID is a key partner that continuously supports this important area, which builds on previous efforts.” 

This expanded support will enable better health outcomes and improved IHR capacities through implementation on the National Health Security Workplan 2022-2025, to ensure health security in Lao PDR and in the region, particularly disease surveillance, risk assessment, laboratory, outbreak detection, prevention and control, mitigate the risk of zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial resistance, and improve public health emergency management systems, risk communication, and multisectoral collaboration.

Ambassador Variava echoed the importance of collaboration and the expanding health partnership with the Lao PDR.  “The United States is committed to partnering with Lao PDR in its efforts to strengthen health security.  This funding will help support Lao PDR in building a more resilient health system and preparing for future pandemics and epidemics.” 

Ambassador Variava added, “We are deeply grateful for the continued collaboration with these two trusted partners, MOH and WHO.  Together, we can and will protect health and save lives.” 

The new funding will support a range of activities, covering disease surveillance, improved laboratory capabilities, prevention of and response to public health emergencies, public awareness, and multi-sector collaboration.

Importantly, the funding will improve Lao PDR’s core capacities required under the International Health Regulations (2005) – the international obligations that all countries work toward to ensure global health security.

“Lao PDR has demonstrably improved its capabilities to respond to disease outbreaks and threats,” said WHO’s Dr. Armstrong.  “However, no country is immune, and we must ensure constant vigilance to remain safe and protected.  The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for sustained efforts to address gaps, and this significant investment from USAID will provide an important step towards doing so.”

The United States Government, through USAID, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Defense, and WHO, have worked for many years to improve health across Lao PDR.  This includes supporting COVID-19 pandemic response through vaccinations, strengthening epidemiological and laboratory capacities, strengthening oxygen supply, infection prevention and control, vaccine data collection and management, community engagement, and hospital preparedness.

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