VIENTIANE, LAO PDR – Isobel Coleman, Deputy Administrator (DA) for Policy and Programming for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), visited Laos on May 13-14, 2022. This visit reaffirmed USAID commitment to the U.S.-Lao Comprehensive Partnership, inaugurated by former President Barack Obama and President Bounnhang Vorachit in 2016.
The U.S.-Lao Comprehensive Partnership is based on common interests and a shared desire to build a foundation for the future. Since the development of the Partnership, the United States and Lao PDR have significantly increased areas of development cooperation including in health, education, governance, economic growth, energy and climate change. Most recently the United States and Laos have partnered on ending COVID-19, rebuilding Laos’ economy, and providing social services, particularly for vulnerable populations, which have all been severely affected by the pandemic.
During her time in Laos, DA Coleman met with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ting Souksanh to discuss ongoing foreign assistance in Laos and USAID’s commitment to support Laos in rebuilding its economy and address the impacts of COVID-19. DA Coleman also met with Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Sthabandith Insisiengmay to discuss growing U.S.-Laos development cooperation in which USAID is currently supporting Laos to meet its goals under the 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan.
DA Coleman announced a new US $2.6 million USAID grant to UNICEF to support early childhood and primary education in Laos with Vice Minister of Education and Sports Sisouk Vongvichit. The grant will also address issues in the education sector posed by COVID-19. DA Coleman handed over 85,000 grade 1 and grade 2 textbooks, donated by USAID in partnership with Save the Children. This support complements the Government of Laos’ efforts to improve basic literacy and reading outcomes, especially for vulnerable children, children from ethnic groups and children with disabilities.
DA Coleman highlighted USAID’s support to women owned Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with her announcement of an additional $3 million economic recovery grant to the Lao PDR Competitiveness and Trade Project with Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr. Manothong Vongsay. The project is implemented by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the World Bank, with financial support from the World Bank, USAID, Australia and Ireland. The grant will support the Lao PDR’s efforts to improve the business environment and assist Lao businesses to recover from COVID-19. This investment is expected to foster investment, increase competitiveness of Laos and its MSMEs and ultimately create better paying jobs for the next generation of Laos people.
Reaffirming U.S. commitment to combating COVID-19, DA Coleman met with vaccine and frontline workers at Mittaphab Hospital and observed firsthand how U.S.-donated vaccines, IT equipment, and the online vaccination registration system have significantly assisted Lao PDR in meeting its 80% vaccination target. To date, the United States has provided over US $15 million to train healthcare workers, donate essential equipment, and provide over 2.7 million vaccine doses to help Laos fight COVID-19, underpinning President Biden’s goal to end the pandemic.
Promoting women’s empowerment and inclusion, as well as supporting marginalized populations such as persons with disabilities, ethnic groups, and the poor, is important to USAID. On Saturday, DA Coleman presented scholarships to 12 law students and met a group of talented female law graduates and lawyers to discuss how USAID, the Ministry of Justice and the Asia Foundation are empowering women in advancing the rule of law.
The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) and the Center for Medical Rehabilitation hosted DA Coleman and provided a tour of the rehabilitation ward, a new USAID-supported training facility and the COPE Visitor Center. DA Coleman discussed ongoing USAID support to help improve the well-being of people with disabilities by improving health and rehabilitation services and providing economic opportunities.