Laos, officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic, is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International, Laos also suffers from major poverty. To get a better understanding of the daily struggle in Laos, below are 10 facts about poverty in Laos.
10 Facts About Poverty in Laos
- According to Vision Launch Discover, 90 percent of Lao people lived off of $1 a day in the 1990s; now, this number is about $1.25. The other 10 percent live in Vientiane, the capital and largest city of Laos. Vientiane draws in the most wealth as the economic center of Laos.
- Laos is the most bombed country in history because of World War II. From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of ordnance over Laos during 580,000 bomb missions. Fifty people a year are killed from unexploded bombs left over from the war. These bombs scattered around the country are usually mistaken for toys and get tossed around before exploding; thus 40 percent of bomb deaths are children. Since 80 percent of people depend on their land to eat and live, people in Laos have no choice but to risk their lives working in fields covered in unexploded bombs.
- Forty-four percent, or 363,000, of Lao children under 5 years old are affected by stunting, a highly common condition in Laos. Stunting is usually caused by maternal undernutrition before and during pregnancy.
- More than 60 percent of children are malnourished and anemic. These conditions become potentially fatal due to the inadequate nutrition and lack of access to healthcare providers.
- Although improving, 23.2 percent or about 1.4 million Laos people are still living at or below the poverty line. Still, this is a major improvement from the 33.5 percent of the past.
- Agriculture is a key pillar in life in Laos, accounting for 80 percent of employment. The most important and produced crops are rice, vegetables, beans, sugarcane, starchy roots and tobacco.
- Education is scarce; therefore, people are forced to work in agriculture since there is little to no access to established schools and workplaces. According to United Nations Lao PDR, 70 percent of employed people work in agriculture and over a third of them don’t make enough to live sufficiently.
- Women receive less schooling but work longer hours than men; however, 70 percent of the illiterate population are women. According to UNESCO, more than 4,000 villages lack access to education.
- Two-thirds of people have a short supply of food and living essentials. During May and October of 2010, Laos faced what community leaders called the worst drought in living memory after Typhoon Ketsana in late 2009. This drought left 85,000 people affected with no seeds to harvest and no place to live. While poor climate is not unusual in Laos, this puts more burden onto the people that depend on their land to survive.
- For more than 20 years, the United States has donated more than $100 million to support UXO programs. This money is intended to clean up unexploded ordinances and give victims access to rehabilitation centers. Also, in February 2016, the United States and Laos signed to a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which will allow more opportunities and investments between the two nations.
Hardship and Progress
These top 10 facts about poverty in Laos illustrate the struggles and hardships that Laos people face daily. However, despite being one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia and the entire world, about half a million of Laos people have been lifted out of poverty thus far.
Fortunately, the United States and Laos continue to rebuild a relationship with each other with a goal of saving lives and rebuilding a better country for the Laos people.
– Kristen Uedoi