VIENTIANE, LAO PDR — On October 11-13, 2023, Acting USAID Country Representative to Lao PDR Dr. Kevin Smith and Deputy Director General of Department of Policy for Devotees, Persons with Disability and Older Persons and Deputy Head of Secretariat to National Committee for Disabilities and Elderly, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Mr. Sengaloun Luangraj together celebrated the achievements of the USAID Okard. More than 150 sub-recipients and stakeholders shared USAID Okard’s successes and impact in promoting the independence and functional ability of persons with disabilities through equal access to quality health and social services in Lao PDR.
“The United States is committed to support disability inclusive development in Lao PDR and recognizes the need to foster the independent living and functional ability of persons with disabilities, including survivors of UXO accidents. We remain dedicated to collaborating with and supporting the health, economic empowerment and disability sector in this country,” noted Dr. Smith in expressing his appreciation toward the Government of Laos and the Ministry in this partnership. “We look forward to expanding this partnership to uplift the lives of persons with disabilities, helping them become productive members of the society and enabling them to participate in Laos’ social economic development agendas.”
Deputy Director General of Department of Policy for Devotees, Persons with Disability and Older Persons and Deputy, Head of Secretariat to National Committee for Disabilities and Elderly, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Mr. Sengaloun Luangraj highlighted the expanding decade-long support from USAID in disability inclusion. “The project’s achievements serve as a model for others to follow and a reminder that working towards inclusion is a continuous effort that requires the involvement of all stakeholders.” said Deputy Director General of Department of Policy for Devotees, Persons with Disability and Older Persons and Deputy Head of Secretariat to National Committee for Disabilities and Elderly, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Mr. Sengaloun Luangraj. “We appreciate USAID Okard’s efforts working with the Ministry to improve the lives of our friends with disabilities.”
USAID Okard is a six-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development, and implemented by World Education Lao PDR, and Humanity & Inclusion. The project has been instrumental in promoting the functional ability of persons with disabilities in the Lao PDR. The project addressed the social and economic exclusion faced by persons with disabilities, where they often encounter significant barriers to accessing services and participating in society.
USAID Okard has achieved significant successes in improving the lives of persons with disabilities. The project has supported the development of disability-inclusive policies and practices across various sectors, including health, education, and social protection. It has also built the capacity of local partners to provide disability-inclusive services, including rehabilitation, assistive products, and inclusive education. These efforts have helped to increase access to services for persons with disabilities and assist them to participate in the Lao economy.
To recognize and celebrate the achievements and impact of the project, an event was held to highlight the successful partnership between USAID Okard, and its partners, including the Lao government, and civil society organizations working together for a disability inclusive society and improving rehabilitation services for all. The event aimed to exchange lessons on implementing the activities, highlighting the barriers removed or reduced due to support from USAID Okard, but also acknowledging the challenges still faced by persons with disabilities. The event emphasized the importance of continuing to create an environment in which they can equally access health and social services, and actively participate in society.
The celebration aimed to inspire continued efforts towards improving the lives of persons with disabilities and promoting their inclusion in society. It emphasized that everyone has a role in removing barriers to create a more inclusive community. USAID Okard has shown that with the right policies, systems, and partnerships, it is possible to promote the functional ability of persons with disabilities and ensure they have equal access to quality health, economic, and social services.
To date, USAID Okard has improved the lives of over 29,000 vulnerable persons, including 176 survivors of unexposed ordnance or UXO, trained 5,417 service providers, strengthened 832 organizations, and supported 8,788 persons to receive health and related rehabilitation services. USAID Okard also supported the provision of nearly 13,000 crutches, wheelchairs and other basic assistive products for the Ministry of Health. Over 2,000 persons with disabilities and their households received USAID-donated braces, supports and other specialized assistive products, plus income generation support, while over 175 people are now employed to earn their own incomes, most of whom for the first time.