United States launches new partnership in Health and Governance Strengthening to Improve Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition in Lao PDR through CONNECT Initiative [EN/LO]

n by helping strengthen Lao PDR health and governance systems through the CONNECT Initiative, intending to provide US $10 million, was launched today by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, USAID, and WHO at a ceremony joined by Minister of Health Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Minister of Home Affairs Thongchanh Manixay, Embassy of the United States of America Chargée d’Affaires Michelle Y. Outlaw, and Acting WHO Representative Dr Timothy Armstrong, with officials from relevant ministries and organizations.

CONNECT is a Ministry of Health and Ministry of Home Affairs-led initiative, supported by WHO, that aims to increase access to essential healthcare services such as vaccination and maternal and child care by strengthening primary health care as a core pathway to achieve universal health coverage. CONNECT focuses on building trust between healthcare providers and communities; working closely with local leaders to strengthen local governance, planning, and coordination; and enhancing governance structures to institutionalize and sustain this initiative.

‘Health is not just a service, it’s a promise made and kept together,” said H.E. Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Lao PDR Minister of Health. “Strengthening governance in our communities is like nurturing the roots of a tree – the healthier they are, the stronger the branches. Each member of a village – community members, local officials, mass organization representatives, nurses and doctors, and ethnic and religious leaders – build a strong community together.”

“By empowering communities and local stakeholders to own health outcomes, we build trust and responsibility and make the best use of existing resources. This generous support from USAID will do just that, progressing local governance at the community level, and ensuring health grows strong for all.”

H.E. Dr Thongchanh Manixay, Minister for Home Affairs, said: “A key focus for our ministry is building stronger communities. Healthcare stands out as crucial for enhancing the living standards and quality of life for our people. I am happy to report that the CONNECT initiative has been a unique approach to help us achieve this aim, in a new way, with strong results. We look forward to its expansion, and we are delighted that by working to prioritize health we can improve governance and boost healthcare quality and utilization, and in turn use this as an entry point for local development.”

“The United States is proud to partner with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, and WHO to invest in a healthier future for the people of the Lao PDR,” said U.S. Chargée d’Affaires Outlaw. “This partnership reflects our long-standing commitment to supporting the Lao PDR’s development and improving the lives of all its citizens. We believe strong governance sits at the centre of good health and strong communities. We are excited to see the CONNECT initiative expand to more locations, with strong healthy outcomesextending across the country, at all levels.”

To assist remote and ethnic communities, USAID support will expand CONNECT to five additional provinces: Phongsaly, Oudomxay, Savannakhet, Salavanh, and Xekong, following its deployment to more than 259 communities across 10 provinces to date. USAID support will facilitate stakeholder coordination for better service delivery, and will further integrate maternal and child health services, including immunization and nutrition, to achieve key health targets to improve the quality of healthcare services at the provincial and community levels. USAID’s support will assist in developing and deploying clinical guidelines and training for healthcare professionals across more than 200 facilities.

“WHO is fully committed to supporting the Lao PDR to reach the unreached with enhanced access to quality healthcare and strengthen local governance to help put health at the top of everyone’s priority list,” said Dr. Armstrong, WHO Acting Representative to the Lao PDR. “This new partnership builds on our strong collaboration and will ensure that quality services reach all in the Lao PDR in an equitable manner, and that underserved communities are better supported. Our sincere thanks go to USAID for this substantive partnership.”

The United States Government, through USAID, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Defense, with regular collaboration with the WHO, has worked for many years to improve health across Lao PDR. This includes supporting COVID-19 pandemic response, vaccination, strengthening oxygen supply, infection prevention and control, vaccine data collection and management, community engagement, health emergencies, and hospital preparedness.

Media Contacts

Will Seal
Technical Officer (Communications)
Mobile: +856 20 55 510 788
Email: sealw@who.int

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