Handicap International works closely with Lao institutions and civil society to address the major causes of disability in the country and to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities. To carry out its mandate, Handicap International employs 198 national and 14 expatriate staff.
Laos is one of the least developed countries in the world. Following decades of conflict in the region, it is also easily the world’s country most heavily contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXO), with 80 million unexploded “bombies” still polluting the ground. Since 1964, more than 50,500 victims have been killed by these devices. Handicap International has helped victims of mines and explosive remnants of war in Laos since 1983. In 2010, this expanded to include child disability prevention and early detection, road accident prevention, support for disabled persons organizations, and social and economic integration for people with disabilities.
- Mine action
- Maternal and child health
- Road safety
- Economic inclusion
- Support to DPOs (Disabled Peoples’ Organizations)
- Functional rehabilitation
Unexploded ordnance in Laos has accounted for approximately 300 new casualties annually for the last decade. UXO remain in 41 of the 46 poorest districts of the country. Since 2006, Handicap International's demining teams have cleared more than 3,100,000 square miles of land in Laos, and destroyed some 19,400 ERWs. Working in the most affected areas alongside government and other partners, such as the National Regulatory Authority, Handicap International not only removes UXO, but also educates communities about the risks posed by these weapons. With community liaisons, the organization aims to address the needs of civilians in dangerous areas by identifying priority areas for clearance. The organization also promotes public awareness through our Ban Advocates program, a group of UXO survivors who advocate for a ban on cluster munitions and the full application of the rights of survivors as guaranteed by the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions.
MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH
Handicap International promotes an integrated approach within the existing health system of Laos for the prevention, early detection, early intervention, and referral of children ages five and younger with, or at risk of, disabilities. The organization runs a child disability early detection system in partnership with the Children's Hospital in Vientiane, as well as building the capacities of child development units who offer basic rehabilitation care to children with disabilities. Staff members carry out community-level initiatives to increase knowledge of childhood disability and promote key family behaviors that reduce disability risk factors.
Traffic accidents are a leading cause of disability globally and an increasing threat in Lao PDR. Handicap International aims to prevent road traffic fatalities, disabilities and injuries through education and public awareness campaigns related to helmet wearing, drunk driving, mobile phone use, and speeding. Staff also work with the Road Crash Prevention Team and support research to promote road safety. To achieve broad impact, the organization partners with key government agencies like the Ministries of Public Works and Transport, Public Security, Education, and Public Health. Beneficiaries of this program include all road users, but especially young motorcyclists and school students.
In partnership with the Laos Disabled Peoples Association and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Handicap International aims to break down the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing employment opportunities within their communities. Through vocational and technical training, people with disabilities are integrated in their communities and able to earn a living. Financial support is provided to beneficiaries of this program in the form of a start-up pack that makes buying new business equipment possible.
SUPPORT TO DPOs (Disabled People's Organizations)
Handicap International supports the Laos Disabled People’s Association to ensure participation of persons with disabilities in decision making processes concerning them, their livelihoods and their well-being. Active in 34 villages, the organization collects and analyzes data to inform government policies and actions; supports the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; designs action plans to promote inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in the life of their communities; and has piloted a unique methodology to support the inclusion of disability issues in development projects.
To better meet the needs of people with disabilities in Laos, Handicap International is working to improve the country's rehabilitation system as a whole. Partnering with the Ministry of Health to draw up a strategic action plan on rehabilitation and inclusive health, the organization is currently identifying a community-based rehabilitation model for Laos, and supporting the training of physical therapists and other rehabilitation professionals around the country.