VIENTIANE, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Lao authorities say that while the majority of people now have access to better quality medical services, access to reproductive health services remains a challenge for many, especially impoverished women.
Women and young people in Laos lack information about access to reproductive health services, a recent report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said. Unless inequality is urgently tackled, and the poorest women are empowered to make their own decisions about their lives, the nation could face threats to its development goals.
Deputy Director of Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion under Lao Ministry of Health Phonepaseuth Ounaphom recently told at a workshop for family planning that unintentional pregnancies and poor health stop women from seeking jobs outside the home and limits their prospects of gaining economic power, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Tuesday.
"Furthermore, childcare obligations cause women to face discrimination in employment. Lack of access to healthcare and information has a direct impact not only on women's health but also on their education, employment, and economic prospects," Phonepaseuth said.
Although the situation has been improving, some vulnerable groups such as rural women in remote communities and adolescent girls still lack the reproductive rights that would allow them to gain control of their lives.
A senior official from the Lao Ministry of Health, who wished to remain anonymous, said the ministry was trying to improve standards of healthcare. She said the Lao government has been working hard to lift Laos from the the UN list of Least Developed Countries and to do this, reproductive health and adolescent nutrition were essential.
However, current research often ignores that many mothers are adolescent girls with limited or no access to family planning and because they were adolescents, it does not consider their specific needs.
According to the UNFPA, about 15 percent of married women in Laos would like to plan childbearing but are not able to use modern methods of contraception. Unmet need is high particularly among young women, women with no education and the poorest women with 75 percent of girls aged 15-19 having no access to family planning.