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Unsung progress in rural sanitation: building the foundations in Lao PDR

Research reports

This case study illustrates Lao PDR's progress in increasing access to improved sanitation in rural areas. The story describes the nature of the progress, analysis of the factors that have contributed to progress and lessons for policy makers.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) faces considerable challenges in the delivery of sustainable and equitable access to sanitation in rural areas. The country is one of the poorest countries in East Asia and receives one of the highest per capita levels of aid in the world. Approximately 84% of its poor are rural inhabitants, with almost 2 million rural dwellers falling below the poverty line. More than half the population lives in upland areas with a critical lack of infrastructure, presenting huge technical, social and physical challenges to sanitation service delivery.

Nevertheless, the country has made progress since 1990 in increasing access to improved sanitation in rural areas. This is a story of rapidly increasing access to improved sanitation and of gradually improving government systems for service delivery. This progress is to an extent ‘unsung’ – Lao PDR’s current sanitation challenges tend to eclipse its positive steps forward. But progress has been made in a difficult sector from an extremely low base, even if major challenges remain.

Simon O'Meally