Laos: Australia sends in emergency support for education in flood-hit areas

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Australian government has provided support for education through UNICEF to the Ministry of Education and Sports in an effort to contribute to ongoing emergency response and recovery efforts in flood-affected Sanamxay district of Attapeu province.

The aid for children included 25 large-size tents, five medium-size tents and 1,500 school bags.

For the Lao government, ensuring that every child goes back to school is a top priority. It is critical that all children, including those affected by the floods and children in host communities, are fully registered and continuously attend classes throughout the school year.

“We highly appreciate this contribution from UNICEF and the Australian government that will help vulnerable children in Attapeu province to continue learning,” the Minister of Education and Sports, Ms Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun, said.

The large tents will be used to establish temporary learning spaces in Sanamxay district, which will help restore formal schooling by accommodating displaced children. Thanks to these tents, a minimum of 900 pre-primary and primary students will be able to learn in a safe environment.

The medium-size tents will help expand access to Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) for children under five. Each tent can provide services for about 150 children a day.

In emergency situations, CFSs play a very important role in giving a child a sense of normalcy amid chaos as they offer a safe space to run, sing, play and learn together. CFSs are also instrumental in ensuring young children’s smooth transition to primary school.

In addition, 1,500 flood-affected pre-primary and primary-aged children will benefit from having a school bag, assisting them to go back to school and enjoy continuous learning.

The Australian Ambassador to Laos, Mr Jean-Bernard Carrasco, said, “We are working hand-in-hand with national and local authorities as well as with development partners, including UNICEF, to ensure the needs of those affected by the disaster are met. It is our hope that these education emergency items will help children to continue learning and build a better future for them and their families.”

The Representative of UNICEF to Laos, Dr Octavian Bivol, said quality education for all is imperative to help children reach their full potential. “When an emergency strikes, ensuring access to education for every child, either formally or informally, is even more important. Enabling children to go back to school as part of their daily routine is an effective way to help them overcome the stress and trauma caused by the disaster. Going back to school is a life-saving intervention and, thus, no children should be left behind,” he said.

UNICEF, along with the Australian government, is committed to providing continuous support to the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Lao government for the emergency response throughout the immediate response, early recovery and long-term rehabilitation periods.

In addition, with support from the Australian government, Unicef has collected data to better understand the situation of vulnerable children in camps, set up other CFSs and provided training for teachers on psychosocial support and child protection.

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the most disadvantaged children across 190 countries and territories.

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