Quick Facts

  • Officially called Lao People’s Democratic Republic
  • Gained independence from France on July 19, 1949. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six century old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam.
  • A landlocked country in Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
  • Population: 6,911,544
  • Capital and largest city: Vientiane (pop. 997,000)
  • Ethnic groups: Lao  55%  Khmou  11%  Hmong  8%
  • Official language: Lao
  • Major religion: Buddhism
  • Literacy: 79.9%
  • Climate: tropical monsoons, rainy season (May-Nov.)  Dry season (Dec. to April)
  • Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
  • Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, and gemstones
  • Environmental issues: unexploded ordnance, deforestation, soil erosion, limited access to potable water
  • Natural hazards: floods and droughts
  • Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice cultivation in lowland areas, accounts for about 30% of the GDP and 75% of total employment.
  • The government is committed to raising the country’s profile to foreign investors, opening its first stock exchange in 2011.
  • Laos is a rising power in providing electricity to neighboring countries and the economy is accelerating rapidly with demand for its metals.
  • Current weather conditions: www.weather.com
  • Tips for travel in country: www.travel.state.gov
  • Currency exchange rates: www.xe.com

Government in Power

  • A communist state
  • Chief of state: President Lt. General Choummali Saignason (since 2006)
  • Head of government: Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong (since 2010)

Healthcare Statistics

  • Maternal mortality rate: 197/100,000
  • Infant mortality rate: 52.97/1,000
  • Life expectancy: 63.88 years
  • Health expenditures: 2% of GDP
  • Physicians density: 0.18 physicians/1,000 population
  • Hospital bed density: 1.5 beds/1,000 population
  • HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate: 0.26%
  • Children under the age of 5 underweight: 26.5%
  • Major infectious diseases risk: very high
  • Infectious diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, dengue fever, malaria, avian influenza
  • Infectious disease updates: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.htm

Images From the Field

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Area Agencies

Field Stories

Flexibility, Adaptability, Patience and Enthusiasm   All of the above traits are very important on relief trips! I believe that each warrants a word when it comes to relief work. Flexibility – Be very flexible with your expectations. Despite a given itinerary, on some trips the plan changes as soon as you land. Timelines often fall apart […]


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