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Reference : V-P-LA-E-00963
Date : 02/2011
Country/Region : LAOS
Caption : Xieng Khuang province, Phu Kut district, Village of Keoban. Opening ceremony for the new water point installed by the ICRC and the Lao Red Cross.
Photographer : SOUTHY, Kaviphone
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : Source: ICRC website, 05-04-2011 feature. Laos: water brings a flood of hope.
The conflict in Laos ended some 40 years ago. Yet many rural communities are still coping with the aftermath - unexploded cluster bombs, which put people and livelihoods at risk. Joint ICRC and Lao Red Cross projects are bringing water and sanitation to these remote areas.
People in the Lao villages of Phangon and Phousiew were in a festive mood when the team from the Lao Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited their settlements. The young women had dressed in their traditional Hmong costumes. The villagers had come together to celebrate a major change in their simple life - clean drinking water had finally reached them.
Xieng Khouang province, in the north-eastern part of the country, hosts one of the most famous and mysterious archaeological sites in South-East Asia, the Plain of Jars. Yet Xieng Khouang - one of the poorest and most remote rural regions, inhabited mainly by Hmong communities - is also among the provinces most affected by unexploded cluster munitions used decades ago.
The Lao Red Cross and the ICRC are committed to supporting vulnerable communities in areas like this. In February 2011, the humanitarian organizations completed hygiene and water-supply projects in two districts of Xieng Khouang province. More than 750 villagers in Phangon (Nong Het district) and Phousiew (Phu Kut district) now have access to clean water and ventilated pit latrines.
"Life has significantly improved now that sufficient water is regularly available in the village," said Nye Vang Yang, the Lao Red Cross volunteer in Phu Kut district. "Before, villagers had to fetch water at night from the same source where the cattle would drink."
"As a Red Cross volunteer, I can provide basic health-care services to the villagers," he added. "We are now working hard to earn the title of 'clean village of the province.'"
Nye Vang Yang has played an essential role in promoting hygiene practices among the villagers and in providing free basic health-care services. He has been visiting the village every month since the project started.
Dr Saramany, president of the Lao Red Cross, stressed the importance of promoting hygiene. "Access to clean water is the first step towards reducing poverty in this province, which even today is still severely affected by the war."
The Lao Red Cross, through its network of volunteers across the country, can reach the most remote communities. "It is not easy to change hygiene habits and behaviours," Dr Saramany admitted. "One of our assets is that our volunteers can speak the Hmong language and other languages of vulnerable communities in Laos that we want to help."
The Lao Red Cross and the ICRC have been strengthening their cooperation in Laos since 2004. Water and hygiene projects were previously carried out in Luang Prabang and Vientiane provinces.

In total, two gravity-fed water-supply systems of approximately six kilometres, 12 water points and more than 120 latrines were built with the support of the Lao Red Cross (LRC), the ICRC, and the provincial authorities. The LRC held monthly outreach sessions to strengthen hygiene education. The communities' participation is valued at 33 million kip (around 4,000 US dollars), while the LRC/ICRC contribution amounts to 260 million kip (around US$ 32,000).

Original material : digital
Resolution : 3872x2592
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour