– 13 September 2018
Children homeless after Laos dam collapse
SOS Children’s Villages is supporting children who lost their homes when a dam collapsed in Laos on July 23, triggering a flash flood that submerged 13 villages. Thousands of children have lost their homes and are living in makeshift shelters in relief camps, without enough food, water or access to education.
The international children’s charity was amongst the first to respond to the disaster - bringing in teachers, child-care specialists and counsellors from across Laos to care for children’s physical, educational and emotional needs.
Support was also provided from SOS Children’s Villages Nepal, who have extensive emergency response experience protecting children in the wake of the 2015 earthquake and recurrent flooding in the region.
Two childcare centres have been set up at the Sanamxay and Mitsamphan Secondary Schools in Attapeu Province to provide children with food, educational activities and a safe space to recuperate and play with other children.
The region’s infrastructure was badly damaged in the disaster and there is a drastic shortage of food and water. Relief trucks cannot get to the camps and the bridges can only handle small vehicles. SOS Children’s Villages is delivering food and other supplies to the childcare centres by boat.
13 schools were also destroyed, and local officials estimate it will be five years before homes for all the affected families can be constructed. SOS Children’s Villages is looking into ways it can support children and families longer-term to ensure the children’s educational and housing needs are met.
National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Laos, Soumata Dengchampa said: “Conditions are getting worse not better for the affected families. The shelters are on flat ground and flood easily. In some makeshift camps there are no spaces for cooking, and there are not enough toilets or safe drinking water. Some of the families who lost their homes are living on the road to escape the high water.
“Parents are trying to get back to their homes to see what is left. Many of these families grew rice or fish for their living, now their farms are covered in mud and they have lost their income and food. In the shelters, they are getting rice and tinned fish but there is a shortage of fresh vegetables.
“Children are walking around because they have nothing to do. They are playing outside in dirty water and mud which raises the risk of water-borne disease. They are also at higher risk of violence in this situation, and we are finding children who are being neglected or left unattended. That is why child-care spaces are so important, they provide activities and educational opportunities for the children and make sure they are getting proper nutrition. The children need somewhere they can be safe to play.”
SOS Children’s Villages operates six village communities in Laos which care for children who have lost parental support. They also provide day care, primary and secondary education, vocational training and counselling to at-risk children and families across the country.
Many of the older children growing up in the village communities volunteered to help with the relief efforts during the school summer holidays. SOS teachers and carers provided them with training and oversight, so they could assist with the recreational activities for younger children.
You can donate to our emergency relief work in Laos here.
Notes to editors:
For media enquiries please contact Lucy Prioli at Lucy.Prioli@sosuk.org or on 01223 222 974.