This country book focusing on Laos is intended to be a reference for individuals deploying to conduct disaster preparedness engagements or disaster response operations in Laos, but it is not meant to be a checklist or manual for all disaster response operations. The research team conducted extensive research and analysis on existing Lao plans, policies, and capabilities related to disaster management and risk reduction. The team also reached out to United States Government (USG) stakeholders and open source research to compile this book.
Laos is exposed to natural disasters such as flooding, drought, earthquakes, cyclones, and infectious disease epidemics. In the past five years, Laos has been affected by severe flooding due to tropical storms causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions in damages. Forecasts project that the intensity and frequency of natural disasters in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) will likely increase due to climate variation and change.
The impacts of natural disasters in Laos are felt mainly in the rural areas where economic livelihoods are primarily in the agricultural sector and food security is an issue. Its mountainous border provides a physical barrier to population migrations; however, the borders with neighboring countries are quite porous. The country has made significant investments to transform from a land-locked disadvantaged country into an opportunistic land-linked country. This transformation has led to major investments in transportation and energy infrastructure projects. The Government of Laos is identifying key cities for growth to meet such a surge in demand and is finding ways to increase water supply and distribution, but it has little money to invest itself. International donors are providing some funds, but not enough to keep up with the rising demand and the increasing pace of development.
The Lao military performs critical roles and is a key asset in all phases of disasters. The military is responsible for preparing and training for operations with lead or supporting roles in the pre-disaster, response, and early recovery phases.
While the military support to disaster preparedness and response is important, the Ministry of National Defense has limited resources and capabilities.
Laos is making considerable progress in poverty reduction over the past decades with poverty rates on the decline from 46 percent in 1992 to 27 percent at present. The country is on course to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing poverty in half by 2015. Laos’ economic forecast is optimistic after the country’s membership into ASEAN.
The Government of Laos continues to progress in their development of disaster management plans and programs to diminish the vulnerability of their population to the effects of natural and man-made hazards. The Draft National Disaster Management Plan 2012-2015 adopts the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015 and captures Lao PDR’s focus to build a comprehensive risk reduction culture and strengthen their disaster management capabilities by improving response and recovery management at all levels.