The U.S. and Lao PDR Cooperate to Improve Well-being and Self-reliance of Persons with Disabilities

VIENTIANE, LAO PDR – The United States continues to play a leading role in helping to improve the well-being of people with disabilities in Laos. On May 16, 2019 in Vientiane, the Lao PDR and World Education Laos signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to expand programs, which will increase the self-reliance of people with disabilities through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Okard program, a five-year initiative funded by the U.S. Government and implemented by World Education.

The MoU was signed by Mr. Khamping Sengtannalat, Director General of the Department of Policy to Devotees Disability and the Elderly and Head of the Secretariat of the National Committee for Disabled People and the Elderly of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, and Ms. Sarah Bruinooge, Country Director, World Education Laos. U.S. Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter and Vice Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Baikham Katthiya witnessed the MOU signing.

USAID works in partnership with the Government of Laos, World Education, Humanity & Inclusion and civil society organizations to develop and implement disability inclusive policies so that no person is left behind. The USAID Okard project aims to improve access to quality health and rehabilitation services, increase job opportunities for persons with disabilities, and strengthen health and economic empowerment through stakeholder engagement.

“This new agreement marks an important milestone in our countries’ partnership to enhance the independence and functional ability of persons with disabilities through equal access to health and social services in Laos,” said U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter. “The United States is committed to supporting the Government of Laos to help persons with disabilities live full and productive lives.”

USAID Okard builds on previous achievements through USAID’s Training, Economic Empowerment, Assistive Technologies and Medical Rehabilitation (TEAM) project, which provided assistance to nearly 6,000 persons with disabilities or impairment. The TEAM project also trained more than 500 health professionals and local partners.

In addition to the USAID Okard project, the United States works in partnership with the government and citizens of the Lao PDR in many areas to improve education, promote health and nutrition, facilitate trade and investment, and strengthen the rule of law.