Photo credit: UNDP Lao PDR

Vientiane, July 7 2020- Ambassador of Turkey to Lao PDR, H.E. Mr. Ahmet Idem Akay today paid a courtesy visit to the newly-appointed Vice Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, H.E. Mr. Padermphone Sonthany, together with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) senior representatives, including the Resident Representative, Ms. Ricarda Rieger, to discuss the efforts of the ongoing project, generously supported by the Government of Turkey through the organization.

Turkey has provided a funding of approximately 100,000 USD for the project entitled “Strengthening Early Warning Systems and Incorporating UXO Risk Education in Lao PDR”, which is being carried out within the context of the Turkey-UNDP Partnership in Development Program.  Ambassador Akay said that, “Turkey attaches high importance to global development cooperation at both the bilateral and multilateral level for the least developed countries.” The Ambassador also thanked the UNDP Country Office in Lao PDR for preparing the said project.

The project commenced earlier this year, provides instrumental support to both the Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division, and the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Recovery sectors, under the purview of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and with support from UNDP.

The target provinces benefitting from this support are Bolikhamsay and Salavan provinces which are not only affected by heavy flash floods but also by UXO contamination. As such, the project aims to simultaneously strengthen the early warning text messaging system in these flood-affected areas whilst also increasing the local knowledge about the dangers of UXO and how to avoid them. On the rationale behind this project concept, Ms. Rieger explains that, “certain risks can be avoided and lives can be saved if we are prepared, including the risks associated with disasters, UXO and even with the COVID-19 pandemic itself”.

New partnerships have been formed as a result with four telecommunication companies on board to assist with dissemination of early warning text messages and calls. These are namely ETL, Lao Telecom, Tplus and UNITEL. Additionally, the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will be providing essential weather forecasting, which can be life-saving to individuals living in these areas prone to flooding.  

To raise awareness of the threats posed by UXO and to inform locals of the Confirmed Hazardous areas, the National Regulatory Authority of the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Lao PDR (NRA) is engaging with the Lao Youth Union volunteers at the district and local level. The NRA will both train the volunteers in how to conduct UXO Risk Education, as well as equipping them with the essential education material to disseminate to villagers and young school children.

Mr. Mark Frankish, the UXO Chief Technical Advisor at UNDP, commends this engagement and notes that, “without the commitment and support at the local level, this project would not have the essential sustainability factor that it now has ”.  

The COVID-19 threat has challenged the project team to be both creative and innovative. In addition to planning successful meetings, workshops and training seminars, the team has to ask itself: “how can we best conduct these activities without posing any further threat to the participants and staff involved?” Virtual discussions have helped this project progress, despite the lockdown earlier this year. We now collectively look forward to our continued concerted effort and move forward with a greater degree of traction to ensure that all the project deliverables are achieved.  

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Aksonethip Somvorachit, Communications Analyst at UNDP Lao PDR


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