Fast facts

Population: 6.8 million
Life expectancy: 63.51 years
Maternal mortality: 470 per 100,000 live births
HIV prevalence: 0.3%
Adult literacy rate: 72.7%
Access to improved drinking water: 83.7% (urban), 64.9% (rural) 

(Source: CIA World Factbook)


CARE in Laos

Laos is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in South-East Asia, with 65 per cent of the total population comprised of more than one hundred different ethnic groups. Although complex, there is a strong link between ethnicity and poverty, particularly in the upland areas of Laos. 

CARE has worked in Laos since 1993. Our work supports remote and disadvantaged communities with:

  • Food and livelihood security
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Community development
  • Health
  • Emergency response


For Bophu, the joy of having a new family is overshadowed by a desperate lack of income, and lack of food.   CARE is helping clear unexploded ordnances from Laos

CARE is working in Bophu's village to give vulnerable families new opportunities to earn an income, address gender inequalities and improve health and nutrition. Read more ©Jeff Williams/CARE


CARE is helping clear unexploded ordnances (including bombs and land mines) from Laos, where over 2 million tonnes of bombs were dropped during the Second Indochina War. Read more ©CARE


CARE’s programs start by focusing on a particular group of vulnerable people and working to make sustained improvements in their lives over 10-15 years. The two main groups we work with in Laos are remote ethnic groups and marginalised urban women.


Remote ethnic groups

  • There is a clear link between ethnicity and poverty in Laos
  • Remote ethnic groups are isolated by location, language and culture

The majority of the people in Laos who live in remote areas belong to ethnic minority groups. There is a clear link between ethnicity and poverty in Laos: though non-Lao-Tai groups account for only one third of the national population, they make up more than half of the poor. 

Isolated by geography, language and culture, remote ethnic groups face many challenges, including:

  • Limited access to productive resources, particularly land 
  • Limited participation in economic opportunities
  • Weak access to basic services 
  • Particular vulnerabilities to natural disasters and climate change

Women from remote ethnic groups remain particularly disadvantaged because of unequal rights, opportunities and access to education. They are often confined to the household, with heavy workloads and at high risk of gender-based violence.

CARE is working with remote ethnic groups to improve participation in the economy and society - particularly for women, reduce gender-based violence, improve maternal health and nutrition, build resilience to shocks and support improved governance.


Pa is from a remote mountainous village in northern Laos

Pa never imagined her children would be able to go to school. Since signing up to be part of CARE's animal bank, she and her family now have enough food to eat and her children are getting an education. Read more on CARE's blog ©Jeff Williams/CARE


Marginalised urban women

  • Poor and disadvantaged people living in urban areas face low and insecure incomes and high costs of living
  • Forty-five per cent of women in urban areas work in the informal sector, lacking protections or benefits
  • New migrants to urban areas are particularly vulnerable

An increasing number of women and girls are migrating from rural areas of Laos to the capital Vientiane in search of new work opportunities. In urban areas, poor and disadvantaged people face low and insecure incomes, high costs of living, inadequate housing and limited access to services. Recent migrants to urban areas are often particularly vulnerable, lacking local knowledge and social networks for support.

Poverty and vulnerability are strongly gendered in Laos, with women generally the most disadvantaged and vulnerable to risks such as dangerous work or sexual exploitation. Forty-five per cent of women in urban areas work in the informal sector and completely lack labour protections or social benefits.

CARE's work with marginalised urban women focuses on access to services and safe employment options, training in practical vocational skills, reduced risks of gender-based violence, maternal and reproductive health issues, and fairer economic and legal protections.


CARE is helping vulnerable women and girls in Laos

In Laos, CARE is helping vulnerable women and girls who have migrated to the capital Vientiane from rural areas in search of new work opportunities. Read more on CARE’s blog ©Jeff Williams/CARE


Lessons and impact

We analyse and evaluate our projects to monitor results and learn how we can improve programs. Visit CARE's Electronic Evaluation Library for a selection of reports on our work in Laos and other countries.



Other resources and highlights


Marginalised Urban Women in South-East Asia   Asia Impact Report    

Marginalised Urban Women in South-East Asia. Download

Asia impact report Download

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