VIENTIANE, July 12 (Xinhua) — The maternal mortality rate of Laos has decreased five-fold and the number of midwives has risen to over 2,500 in the past 25 years, local media reported Friday quoting senior officials.
These were some of the significant accomplishments since the implementation of the action program adopted by 179 governments at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994, local daily Vientiane Times said on Friday.
Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) jointly held an event in Lao capital Vientiane on Thursday to mark the World Population Day and commemorate 25 years of the ICPD action program, and noted the unfinished business for the pursuit of rights and choices for all.
A panel discussion was organized to discuss achievements and challenges in implementing the action program 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 at the center 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.
Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment 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 (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) 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 Lao 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.