Population and Society, Health and Welfare
government relief, Southeast Asian country, unemployment benefits, small pension, infant mortality rate
The infant mortality rate in Laos stood at 91 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002, compared with 64 in Cambodia and 29 in Vietnam. Children who survived had a life expectancy of only 54 years, one of the lowest of any Southeast Asian country. Malaria is widespread in Laos, as are other diseases, parasites, and intestinal disorders such as diarrhea. The infection rate of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) increased in the 1990s. While the number of health-care professionals is increasing, the health infrastructure remains inadequate. There is only one doctor for about every 5,400 people. Hospitals are concentrated in urban centers, and village first aid posts lack proper resources.
Laos does not have a developed social welfare program. In rural areas the country’s bountiful climate ensures that no one starves, even in times of drought, as there are always wild tubers to eat and fish and small animals to catch. At times, people do experience real hardship and poverty for which there is no government relief. Welfare is communal, as people help each other to survive. The government pays a small pension to retired civil servants, but there are no unemployment benefits and only minimal disability payments for war veterans.
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