Laos -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
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 country, more than half the population lacks access to clean water while about one-third of the people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities.
Due to ethnic diversity, house sizes and designs vary in Laos. Based on government census data indicate houses are made of either concrete and brick, wood, or concrete and wood. One-tenth of the population live 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 like-minded local organizations. Habitat’s first partner was the local non-profit association, Community Development and Environment Association (CDEA) that supported women-led savings groups in villages in the northwestern province which includes the capital, Vientiane.
The Habitat-CDEA project served nine families in two communities through repairs and renovations. Lessons learnt from the CDEA project were incorporated into a Habitat pilot project with World Concern-Lao PDR in 2007. The partnership aims to assist 45 poor families to make housing improvements through financing services, mobilization of community resources and construction expertise. Loans of about US$200 each are being disbursed to Habitat families through village banks and state-backed mass organizations like local Women’s Unions. The pilot project is expected to be undertaken in either Sekong or Salavan provinces, current areas of World Concern’s work. A project management committee, consisting of World Concern and Habitat staff, has been formed to oversee the project in Laos.
World Concern was the first American humanitarian agency to be allowed in Laos by the government. In the past 25 years, it has implemented successful projects in various sectors such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, community development, education, health care, income generation
Population: 6.5 million (July 2007 est.)
Capital: Vientiane City
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)
Updated January 2008