Xiengkhouang province is a province located in the north-east of Laos, 1,000m above sea level. It has a population of 260,000 inhabitants. There are five different ethnic groups living in the province, each with their own traditional houses, dresses, beliefs and rituals.
The province still struggles with widespread poverty. Furthermore, during the Vietnam War, the province became one of the most bombed regions in the world. Many of those bombs did not detonate, meaning they still cause injuries and damage nowadays.
Children are the most unprotected from the risks of poverty, and those unexploded ordnances.
Since 1998, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Xiengkhouang.
The province of Xiengkhouang is one of the poorest provinces in Laos; with a 26% poverty rate. There has been a decrease in poverty in the last five years, however it still means one out of four people in the region is poor.
Children are most affected by poverty. Indeed, they do not get the same education opportunities. To illustrate, only 67% of children aged 11 to 14 go to school in Xiengkhouang.
They are also most affected by food scarcity, with 46% of children in the province suffering from stunting, which is a measurement of low height for age, caused by undernutrition.
Laos is the most bombed country in the world. Between 1964 and 1973, the United States launched more than 270 million cluster bombs on Laos, during the Vietnam War. Around 30% of these bombs did not detonate, and those unexploded ordnances (UXO) have killed and injured 50,000 Laotians since the war, 40% of them being children.
UXOs are extremely dangerous, and they also harm the economic development of the country, making it impossible for farmers to use their lands. Children are more vulnerable to UXOs as they often don’t recognize the bombs and are injured as they play with them.