Habitat for Humanity Laos
Habitat's work in Laos
ONE OF THE WORLD’S FEW remaining communist states, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, or Laos, is also among the poorest countries in Asia. Poverty is concentrated in the rural areas where most people live. Eight in ten Lao people are employed in subsistence agriculture though little of the mountainous terrain is suitable for farming. Periodic floods and droughts add to the farmers’ burdens.
Across the country, under half the population lacks access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities.
Due to ethnic diversity, house sizes and designs vary in Laos. Based on government census data, houses are made of either concrete, brick and wood, or concrete and wood. One-tenth of the population lives in semi-permanent shelters where floors, walls and roofs are made of bamboo or grass. Wood and bamboo houses built on stilts are a frequent sight in rural and mountainous areas where many ethnic minority groups reside.
To meet the housing needs in Laos, Habitat for Humanity International established its presence in 2006 by partnering with likeminded local organizations. Habitat’s first partner was the local nonprofit association, Community Development and Environment Association (CDEA) that supported women-led savings groups in villages in the northwestern province which includes the capital, Vientiane.
By the end of 2009, the Habitat-CDEA project had served 128 families in six communities through house repairs and renovations, new toilets and through training on health and hygiene issues.
Laos was the smallest of the five sites which hosted international volunteers for the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in November 2009. Eleven families worked with Habitat volunteers from Thailand, Korea and the U.S. to make improvements such as roof extensions, new toilets or concrete floors. CDEA was Habitat’s partner during the 2009 Carter Work Project.
Population: 6,993,767 (July 2010 est.)
Area: 236,800 sq km.
Ethnic groups: Lao Loum (lowland) 68%, Lao Theung (upland) 22%, Lao Soung (highland including the Hmong and the Yao 9%, ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese 1%
Languages: Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages
Religions: Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, Muslim and Bahai, less than 1%, others 30.9% (2005 census)
Literacy: 73% (2005 est.)
Urbanization: 31% (2008)
Population Living Below Nationa Poverty Line US$1.25 a Day: 27.6% (2005)
Access to Improved Water Sources: 57% (2009)
Access to Improved Sanitation: 53% (2009)
Sources: CIA World Factbook, World Bank