The World Health Organization says malnutrition continues to remain a severe problem in Laos, contributing to a very high child mortality rate - in fact, the highest among ASEAN members for children under five. The rate is now 98 for every 1,000 youngsters under five years old.
A WHO report says Laos' high mother mortality rate, which stands at 405 for every 100,000, is another contributing factor. The report also says 59% of the children die of malnutrition; 38% are underweight; 40% are anemic; and 45% suffer from essential vitamin deficiencies.
In another development, an Australian non-governmental organization says tourism growth in Laos contributes to the continuing human trafficking of young rural Lao females who are lured to big cities under the pretext of employment but are forced to work in the sex trade. A large number of the victims are smuggled to neighboring countries, especially Thailand, where they are forced to work in sweat-shops and brothels.
Thai authorities say the victims are found not only in border towns but also in other parts of the country, including Ranong province in southern Thailand, 1,500 kilometers away from the Laotian border. Authorities recently raided a brothel in Ranong and rescued five Lao women, aged 15 to 20 years old, who said they were forced to work as prostitutes, which led authorities to believe that they might find more victims across Thailand.
Listen to our report for more details in Lao.