50 years of UNICEF in Lao PDR,

Traveler, there is no path; the path is made by walking. This profound quote marked the beginning of UNICEF Lao PDR’s first Annual Report for 1973/74 – a narrative that began modestly in a makeshift office with three individuals and a weathered typewriter. It is now a story spanning five decades, chronicling UNICEF’s unwavering dedication to the nation’s children.

As we look back on these fifty transformative years, it’s a tale not just of aid and development but of profound partnership and enduring change in its collaboration with the Government of Lao PDR and partners. In the 1970s, with Laos emerging into a new era of peace, the nation’s youthful vigor found a parallel in UNICEF’s mission. The organization’s focus areas — education, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, protection, and inclusion — emerged as harbingers of hope, particularly for those in the most isolated and challenging regions.

The 1980s presented a landscape of resource constraints, yet it was a period marked by tangible progress. UNICEF’s investment in educational infrastructure, exemplified by the production of teaching aids and training for primary school teachers, laid the groundwork for generations of learners.


Fritz Lherisson, the first Representative of UNICEF Lao PDR, shakes hands with President Souphanouvong


As the economy burgeoned in the 1990s, UNICEF’s vision expanded in tandem. Immunization, breastfeeding promotion, literacy, and the mitigation of the dangers posed by Unexploded Ordnance (UXOs) became pivotal areas of action. Support extended to children with disabilities, underlining an inclusive approach to development.

The turn of the millennium saw UNICEF adapting to emerging challenges. Efforts to combat violence against children and improve juvenile justice systems signified a deeper understanding of the evolving needs of the Lao youth. Child participation became a cornerstone of UNICEF’s strategy with the birth of the nationwide Youth Media network, present in every province. The 2010s were characterized by bridging the divide between urban and rural children. Initiatives like the early childhood development TV show “My Village” and youth-led media projects revolutionized how education and information traversed the diverse landscapes of Lao PDR.

-Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR speaking on the Podium At patuxay


“Over these five decades, together, we all have made remarkable progress in enhancing the well- being of Lao children and young people,” said Dr Pia Rebello Britto, Representative of UNICEF Lao PDR. “While challenges persist, our collective efforts have led to significant advancements in protecting and promoting children’s rights—the right to health, the right to education, the right to happiness, the right
to protection, the right to nutrition, the right to water and sanitation, and the right to participation. This year’s celebration is more than an acknowledgment of our past; it’s a pivotal moment to recommit to our children’s future.”

As UNICEF Lao PDR marks its 50th anniversary, it’s not just a celebration of the past but a reaffirmation of commitment to the future. It’s a promise to continue walking the path of progress, hand in hand with the Government of Lao PDR and partners, forging a brighter, more hopeful future for every child. This half-century mark is more than a milestone; it’s a beacon of hope, a testament to resilience, and a pledge to keep every child’s well-being at the heart of the nation’s journey.


For more information, visit: unicef.org/laos



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