The History of Laos
As part of its efforts during the Vietnam War, the United States dropped an average of one planeload of cluster bombs on Laos every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine straight years.
Between 1964 and 1973, more than 270 million cluster bombs rained on Laos. This is more than the U.S dropped throughout the whole of World War II on Germany and Japan combined. Many of those bomblets did not explode but instead remained hidden in the ground, waiting for unsuspecting victims – 40% of whom are children.
Because the attention has been focussed on rebuilding following the Vietnam War, Laos has a clean water crisis. They have the lowest access to drinking water in the Mekong sub-region, setting up diarrheal disease to be the 2nd biggest killer of Lao children under the age of five.
Health in Rural Laos
A staggering amount of these deaths are easily preventable with clean water and improved hygiene practices. Frequent bouts of diarrhea lead to chronic malnutrition, thus increasing a child’s vulnerability to disease, which is then aggravated by poor water and hygiene practices that cause diarrheal infections, and the cycle continues.
Imagine a schoolhouse without toilets, clean water or any hygiene or sanitation education. The children defecate in the trees directly behind the schools and are not able to wash their hands afterwards, nor do they have the knowledge to do so. This is the situation for the majority of schools in rural Laos.
Where we work
We have been working in the Bolaven Plateau for the past three years. Our coffee shop is located in the town of Paksong, 50 kilometers east of the largest provincial town, Pakse. This area is home to approximately 125,000 people, many of whom are coffee farmers.
To visit us in Paksong, the best option is to first arrive in Pakse where you can take a songthaew, bus, motorbike or minivan tour. There are no motorbikes or bicycles available for rent in Paksong.