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The Laotian youth is grappling with despair, as highlighted by the BBC


The Laotian youth is grappling with despair, as highlighted in the BBC article "‘I feel hopeless’: Living on the Laos brink" in a post-pandemic context (1). The issue of youth is a global concern: how to enter the job market after two years of border closures and lockdowns? What is the value of diplomas for students who haven't taken exams? In Laos, the situation is particularly challenging for the youth, with most considering leaving the country to build their lives and careers elsewhere. The article features testimonies of young graduates who aspire to find their place in the job market in their own country.



However, the country is facing a multitude of crises that are profoundly affecting this disillusioned youth, eroding their trust in decision-making authorities. Today, 7% of Laos' population lives on less than $2 per day, 18% are below the poverty line, and 22% reside in slums (2). Poverty, which had been on the decline between 2012 and 2018, is on the rise again due to the inflation of the kip. A young person working in the tourism sector, despite it being a significant economic sector, admits to earning only $125 per month to support themselves and their family.


The economic situation could be worse, and it is, due to the country's debt to China. The article mentions the construction and operation of the railway line connecting Vientiane to southern China, where 70% of the railway's revenue goes directly to the Chinese company. Additionally, China controls the construction and operation of hydroelectric dams, which entail significant ecological disruption, population displacement, and major flood risks for surrounding communities. Laos is under Chinese influence, even if this influence is not explicitly acknowledged. Chinese "soft power" appears to be spreading rapidly within Laos, and the result is that the country's development projects do not benefit Laos but only serve to increase the influence and power of its neighbor.


A crisis of confidence, economic turmoil, and geopolitical crises – this combination of challenges is disheartening for the youth who prefer to escape to Thailand or Cambodia to seek a better life. The debt incurred with China poses problems in providing essential public services such as education and healthcare.


The situation is deteriorating for the Laotian people, who are caught off guard and lack the means to fight for their survival.


The PEMM project aims to improve the conditions and quality of healthcare for the underserved populations in the North, but the impact the association hopes to achieve is even more ambitious (though this project alone is already significant). By providing access to healthcare, clean water, and sanitation services, the goal is to restore independence and autonomy to these populations. With clean and healthy infrastructure, trained healthcare workers, clean water, and a healthy environment, we hope to give our local partners the opportunity to gain expertise and become the drivers of future changes.


Despair is understandable, but we must fight against this fatalism to continue nurturing the ethnic diversity and numerous cultures present in this country.


Mylène GELIOT

Project Manager



 
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