Progress made to improve children’s lives in Laos
On June 1, International Children’s Day will be observed in Laos and around the world. Ahead of Children’s Day, Save the Children is launching the Global Childhood Report. The report features the third edition of our annual End of Childhood Index, which ranks countries according to where childhood is most and least threatened. In the year 2000, an estimated 970 million children were robbed of their childhoods due to ‘childhood enders’ – life-changing events like child marriage, early pregnancy, exclusion from education, sickness, malnutrition and violent deaths. That number today has been reduced to 690 million – meaning that at least 280 million children worldwide are better off today than they would have been two decades ago.
There is a similar story in Laos, as children enjoy a better life than they would have 20 years ago. From 2000 to 2019, Laos’ score rose from 543 to 643 in the End of Childhood Index reflecting improvements made in access to and quality of education, health and protection services for children. However, out of 172 countries ranked in the report, Laos placed 145th. Amongst countries in East Asia and the Pacific, Laos was at the bottom. This shows that although Laos has made great progress in improving the lives of children, there is still much work to do.
In Laos, adolescent girls are amongst the most vulnerable, especially those in remote areas. 29% of girls are out of school by the age of 14, and by the age of 17, this percentage rises up to 49.8%. Although male and female drop-out rates are similar, female drop-out rates are still higher. In addition, 23.5% of girls aged 15-19 are married or are in union. Early marriage compromises the development of the child by increasing their chances of suffering from social isolation, interfering with their education, and not allowing them to mature at the appropriate time; negatively affecting their psycho-social wellbeing.
Moreover, early marriage often results in early pregnancy. 16.7% of girls aged 15-19 have had a live birth or are pregnant with their first child. Early pregnancy and childbearing has consequences on the health of the mother including complications or death during and after child birth. Babies born to young mothers are also more likely to suffer from health and psychological problems later on in life.
This cycle will go on unless we change our view on girls. Save the Children is calling on families and communities to support girls in Laos to:
- Stay in school
- Get married and have children when they are ready
- And enjoy their rights as children, so they become healthy and happy women.