Beyond the tragic loss of human life, the COVID-19 crisis will inflict a tremendous human cost in other ways, increasing poverty and inequality, and affecting even more those who are already vulnerable. Governments face a double challenge: containing the pandemic, while at the same time coping with its economic and social impacts. The unfolding COVID-19 crisis will affect the entire population of Lao PDR, while certain population groups will be disproportionately affected.
The World Bank estimates that an additional 90,000-240,000 people could fall into poverty.
Marginalised groups and individuals who face pre-existing structural inequalities in income, gender, disability as well as factors such as forced displacement and migratory status are among those who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and its socioeconomic impacts. The spread of the virus will have more serious socio-economic, demographic, and epidemiological consequences for those already vulnerable, while it will also magnify deep-rooted gender inequalities. It is, therefore, of paramount importance to assist people and communities in vulnerable settlements to provide adequate social protection and compensation to restore livelihoods, health and well-being.
The United Nations in Lao PDR, under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, has been engaged in discussions with the UN Country Team (UNCT) to provide support in the most vulnerable areas. After securing funds from the UN COVID-19 Multi-Partner Trust Fund (2020-2021) to provide assistance at border crossings and quarantine facilities, UN-Habitat has engaged with UNFPA and IOM to move a step forward towards providing mid-term assistance to the most vulnerable in disadvantaged settlements.
The main objective of the project is to contribute to tackling the health and socio-economic crisis caused by COVID-19 by supporting and enabling the Government and communities in Lao PDR to enhance their resilience. This is being achieved through different components by the joint efforts of UN-Habitat, UNFPA and IOM. The proposed interventions are delivered in two southern provinces, namely Champasak and Savannakhet, on the basis of high population, high numbers of returning migrants and consequent WASH requirements.
Six outcomes have been designed as below to provide a comprehensive response while optimizing efficiency, impact and synergies with local partners and on-going interventions. As for UN-Habitat, one of the activities focuses on the geo-referenced identification of the areas that are most at risk of COVID-19 and other socioeconomic vulnerabilities through Vulnerability Mapping Model. Responding to the need for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Lao PDR is also one of the priorities, where only 10.8 per cent of rural population has access to safely managed drinking water service and approximately 24 percent of the population still practice open defecation. In a situation where appropriate hygiene conditions are crucial, WASH interventions are key for reducing risks of virus or disease transmissions.
Improved knowledge on vulnerability conditions for strengthening COVID-19 preparedness and response (UN-Habitat)
Youth population, returned and internal migrants has access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information and Services through the provision of the adolescent and youth-friendly services (UNFPA)
Most vulnerable settlements and communities have improved WASH facilities and/or access to NFIs (UN-Habitat)
Returned, internal and aspirant Lao migrant workers have improved their economic situation and are better able to engage economically post crisis (IOM)
Resilience built, and improved coverage and quality of comprehensive psychosocial services for GBV prevention and COVID-19 mid-term response at national level and across targeted districts (UNFPA)
Strengthened provincial communication mechanisms in the development of key messages and IEC materials on health, hygiene, trafficking prevention, for migrant workers, displaced population, pregnant women, adolescent and youth (IOM)
Donors and Key Project Stakeholders
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Key Project Stakeholders:
Nampapa State-owned Enterprise Savannakhet, Champassak and Attapeu; Provincial Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Public Works and Transport (DPWT)