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Maternal death rate declines, but remains high for region

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The maternal mortality rate has decreased five-fold in Laos, and the number of midwives has risen to over 2,500 in the past 25 years, senior officials said yesterday. 

These were some of the significant accomplishments since the implementation of the action programme adopted by 179 governments at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) jointly held an event in Vientiane on Thursday to mark World Population Day and commemorate 25 years of the ICPD action programme, and note the unfinished business for the pursuit of rights and choices for all.

A panel discussion was organised to discuss achievements and challenges in implementing the action programme as well as assess what needs to be done in the near future.

UNFPA Representative Mariam A. Khan said Laos was one of the three countries that had lowered its maternal death ratio and met global targets in maternal death reduction.

In addition, it was the only country to place the adolescent girl ‘Noi’ at the centre of its development agenda and to have a framework of action.

“Let us celebrate, but let us also keep our eyes on what remains to be done and done quickly. We do not have the next 25 years to deliver. We need to deliver in the next 11 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to accelerate,” she said.

Ms Khan observed that women and girls in Laos today have more choices and more opportunities than their mothers or older sisters. Much of this has been facilitated due to the leadership of Lao authorities in implementing the ICPD action programme.

Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Ms Khamchanh Vongsengboun, highlighted the need to ensure that disadvantaged people in rural areas have opportunities to access education and healthcare services equally.

Despite achievements over the past 25 years, Laos still faces several challenges. The maternal mortality rate remains high compared to other Asean countries. Poor road access in some regions makes it difficult for communities to access quality social services, including education and health.

Young girls are burdened with housework, the rate of girls dropping out of schools remains high, and there is a tendency for these girls to get married and have children at a young age.

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, almost 83 out of 1,000 girls give birth to their first children before the age of 18. In addition, 75 percent of unmarried women aged 15-19 are unable to access modern contraception.  

Laos has a population of 7.1 million people, most of whom are young. If developed properly, this young population will serve as a driving force to boost economic growth in the future.

According to the World Bank, the global population was 3 billion people in 1960, rising to 7.6 million in 2018, and is expected to reach nearly 10 billion in 2050.

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