In Laos, since the beginning of the Lunar New Year in April, the number of people infected with the new coronavirus has increased rapidly. The epidemic has spread from urban areas such as the capital Vientiane to rural areas. The Ministry of Health and the Regional Health Bureau are working on response.
Houaphanh, which is also the center of activities of Médecins du Monde, is a region with a high poverty rate and the weakest medical system in Laos.
With insufficient medical facilities, medical equipment and medical personnel, the crisis of the spread of infectious diseases threatens the existing system. In Houaphanh, which is one of the most mountainous areas in Laos, local staff are working on various measures with the Health Bureau: on how to inform residents of the threat of the novel coronavirus and how to prevent it, and how to obtain infection prevention supplies such as non-contact masks, soaps and thermometers.
Getting to know the new coronavirus
In areas where communication equipment is unreliable, we started by sharing information, communicating about the new coronavirus as well as infection prevention methods. For this, we broadcast videos for the younger generation thanks to the cooperation of influencers, who have a wide reach. We also made posters. And we inform in the villages using loudspeakers. For villagers who do not have information resources such as cell phones, the staff will spend some time and carefully explain all preventive hygiene measures.
The importance of masks and hand washing, in an environment where supplies are limited
We know that infection prevention measures are effective. In areas where even the water supply is unstable, we encourage villagers to wear masks and wash their hands in markets where they often interact with large numbers of people. It’s been almost a month since we started emergency activities, but mask wearing has not yet become widespread. Not only are there not enough masks, but there are no protective clothing. The current situation is that even core hospitals use cooler boxes to store vaccines.
How to deal with infected people
We know that if a patient becomes severely ill or if the infection spreads rapidly, it cannot be dealt with in the current situation. We are engaged in activities to inform the staff of medical institutions in Laos about how to deal with infected people. Although there are preventable measures, it is hard to implement them. We want to avoid situations that lead to the spread of infection uncontrollably.
Médecins du Monde has entered its 4th year in Champasak Province in southern Laos and its 5th year in Houaphanh Province in the north, and is still working on activities to create a framework for regional medical care. By working to improve health care and access to health care in Laos, we continue to work to reduce the mortality rate for children under five. From our efforts so far, we know the difficulty of fighting the new coronavirus in the field where all medical resources are scarce and the importance of communicating information.
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