Access to reproductive health care remains a challenge for many impoverished women in Laos.
A recent report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) revealed that while access to overall health care in Laos has improved, many women still lack the necessary information about reproductive health services. The report also disclosed that nearly 15% of married women want access to family planning services but are unable to use conventional birth control methods.
Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, the deputy director of the Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion under the Lao Ministry of Health, taught a workshop on family planning Tuesday, the Vientiane Times reported, according to Xinhua. Phonepaseuth highlighted that unplanned pregnancies cause women to stop looking for work outside of the home, which ends up restricting their economic agency.
“Child care obligations cause women to face discrimination in employment,” Phonepaseuth said. “Lack of access to health care and information has a direct impact not only on women's health but also on their education, employment, and economic prospects.”
While some Lao women lack the resources or information to make decisions about their reproductive health, some rural women and adolescent girls lack the right to make these decisions in the first place. Many mothers are teenage girls, who often do not have legal access to family planning services because they are minors.
An anonymous official from the Lao Ministry of Health said that it is working to improve health care in the country. The ministry is concentrating on improving adolescent nutrition and reproductive health to support the 75% of teenage girls in Laos who are without access to reproductive health or family planning services.
UNFPA Supplies, the UNFPA’s program dedicated to expanding access to family planning, provides developing countries with reliable contraceptives and maternal health medicines to ensure that impoverished women and girls have the potential to avoid unplanned pregnancies, maternal and child deaths, and unsafe abortions.
In 2018, UNFPA Supplies helped the Lao Ministry of Health create national guidelines on engaging with youth and adolescents about reproductive health and provided training to health service providers across the country to improve their counseling and outreach skills.