Before, during, and after the outbreak. The action of the Accelerating Healthy Agriculture and Nutrition (AHAN)
Project didn’t stop with the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic. While Lao PDR has been managing well the situation - with only 22 cases detected and closely monitored, up to date - the measures implemented by the Government of Lao PDR helped a lot to limit the spread of the virus within the country. At the same time, there were a lot to be done for AHAN teams.
Before the announcement of a country-wide lockdown that would not allow humanitarian organisations to reach their target communities, our staff and implementing partners organised 118 WASH promotion events, particularly insisting on the importance of washing hands with soap. The lockdown era began in March in Laos, by order of the Prime Minister Office.
This was the start of an unrestricted working-from-home period, a suspension of usual celebrations of Lao New Year in mid-April, leading people to celebrate “Pi Mai” at home. During those times of uncertainty, the project team, even back to their hometowns, continued to closely monitor the situation with our target villages’ authorities. Communities and Health facilities’ needs were assessed remotely in order to prepare a COVID-19 response plan. Even remotely, we were still connected and committed to our communities, providing them latest updates on the pandemic in country and key preventive messages to share widely.
This extraordinary situation has also shown the importance of the role of our implementing partners and how essential our beneficiaries can become towards their community. Health workers from Provincial, District Hospitals, Health Centers, village chiefs and village volunteers have played a crucial role during the lockdown period, as the only interface between the community and the government’s directives. Broadcasting prevention messages, monitoring the quarantine zones, or simply teaching siblings how to do proper hand-washing, we thank all the Hidden Heroes in Lao PDR for their outstanding impact to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak.
Now back to a “new normal”, AHAN is including the new COVID-19 dimension to its activities. As a first priority, we provided hand-washing stations, soaps, hand gels, thermometers and personal protective equipments (PPE) to the health facilities. Once the lockdown was eased up by the Government of Lao PDR in early June, AHAN teams extended these supplies to its target communities, in addition to prevention materials such as awareness posters and loud speakers.
COVID-19 might leave a long lasting change on our way of life, but it had a positive impact for some of our beneficiaries and their community. In Sammakhixay District, Attapeu Province, Davanh has been selling the vegetables from her home-garden to her neighbours. She earned the double of the “normal times” amount, with the closure of marketplaces during the lock-down. She could buy the seeds and grow those vegetables thanks to the savings she borrowed through the Saving For Nutrition group established in her village since last year.
With those savings, Davanh could also fund the studies of her children, and her daughter will become a teacher by the end of the University year.
The impact of the AHAN Project on its target communities is becoming more and more visible after a year and a half of implementation. Despite the different hurdles encountered, the significant improvement in the life of our target communities gives the energy to AHAN teams to pursue their commitment to the most vulnerable in Lao PDR.