Between July and August 2021, the Lao-Luxembourg Health Sector Support Programme Phase II (LAO/027) has been providing essential personal care items to more than 1,000 Laotian migrant workers, returning to their hometowns. As neighbouring countries are facing an important wave of COVID-19 outbreak since April, caused by the highly contagious Delta variant, Laos has suddenly seen thousands of its migrant workers - mostly young adults, some with small children – returning home, putting a strain on quarantine facilities as well as on the overall health care system.
The surges in case numbers have prompted travel bans and extension of nationwide lockdown measures. International travel in South-East Asia remains essentially closed, but Lao migrant workers and nationals are allowed to return home through international border checkpoints; however, after crossing the border, they must undergo a 14-days quarantine in temporary accommodation centres set up by the provincial authorities (International Organization for Migration, Situation report, August 2021).
LAO/027 programme staff preparing hospitality bags in Vientiane capital (July 2021)
The COVID-19 mobility restrictions have compounded the vulnerability of some migrants and their challenges of returning home. To ensure a safe and dignified return home and to support the individuals currently in quarantine centres, the LAO/027 programme staff has prepared and dispatched some 1,000 hospitality bags (worth EUR 16,000) to the health authorities in the three central provinces of Vientiane (200 bags), Bolikhamxay (300 bags), and Khammouane (500 bags).
Truck sent to Khammouane province (August 2021)
The hospitality bags are being handed over to people entering the provincial quarantine facilities and each bag contains basic hygiene supplies such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, towels, washing powder, toilet paper, waste plastic bags, reusable meal sets, dishwashing liquid and sponge, mosquito net, thin blankets, surgical masks, and hand sanitizers.
Distribution of hospitality bags at the Phonehong quarantine facility (August 2021)
Labour migration is an important livelihood option for the Lao rural workforce and the most common destination country for Lao migrant workers is Thailand. Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, around 246,000 Lao workers have gradually returned home (Vientiane Times, July 2021). This phenomenon did not only affect Laos, as, indeed, the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global human mobility due to travel restrictions, border closures and lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus, has left millions of migrants stranded across the world (International Labour Organisation, Quarterly Briefing Note, 2021).
Continuing to support the returning migrant workers and their families, often with very young children, but also pregnant women, older persons, students, and those seeking medical attention, is crucial. So far, 60% of the LAO/027 supported hospitality bags, were distributed to women.
Distribution of hospitality bags at a COVID-19 treatment facility in Khammouane province (August 2021)
Distribution of hospitality bags in Vientiane province (August 2021)
The Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg is deeply involved in supporting its partner country, Laos, in its efforts to avoid the spread of the virus and to protect the most vulnerable population groups from the disease. Through the LAO/027 health programme, Luxembourg is continuing to provide support to the Lao health authorities to implement measures where a gap in capacity and resources have been identified at national and subnational levels.
Earlier in June 2021, Luxembourg has committed an additional EUR 1,000,000 (equivalent to LAK 11.5 billion) to detect, mitigate and prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Laos. The LAO/027 health programme is currently supporting 6 of the 10 pillars of the National COVID-19 Preparedness Response Plan 2020. Through this latest funding assistance, Luxembourg’s support is expected to:
- strengthen case management and detection, monitoring and surveillance capacities;
- maintain and support temporary provincial isolation and treatment centres;
- support infection prevention and control (IPC) mechanisms and surge capacities;
- enhance operational support and logistics;
- acquire staff support, IPC consumables and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The Lao-Luxembourg Health Sector Support Programme Phase II (LAO/027) is co-financed by the Government of Lao PDR and the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg and is implemented by the Lao Ministry of Health and LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.↑ To the top