From 2014 to 2017, the Victim Assistance Support Team (VAST) was part of World Education Laos’ Integrated Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Victim Assistance Support Project. In Xieng Khouang Province, VAST conducted a comprehensive needs assessment to identify gaps in services for UXO survivors and created action plans for 200 UXO survivors and their families including livelihoods development, psychological support, support to continue education and scholarships and referrals to vocational schools and on-the-job training. The project also developed the first ever UXO survivor database for Xieng Khouang province to improve case management and monitoring.
VAST education, livelihoods, and financial literacy interventions improved the economic situation for UXO survivors and their families. Over 100 UXO survivors and family members received educational support, including school uniforms, books, pens, pencils, shoes, bags, and enrollment fees. Through a subgrant to the Quality of Life Association (QLA), a local nonprofit, 60 UXO survivors received animal husbandry and financial literacy training along with a grant to purchase animals.
VAST administered psychosocial assessments to more than 200 UXO survivors, evaluating their physical, social, and psychological needs to determine their overall mental health status. Based on assessed need, VAST facilitated survivors’ and their families’ access to provincial hospitals, schools, and vocational training centers. VAST also conducted peer-to-peer support workshops, where UXO survivors came together to share experiences and discuss how to overcome the physical and mental challenges of life after a UXO accident.
In addition, VAST improved first aid and mental health services in Xieng Khouang province by creating a standard national first aid curriculum approved by the Ministry of Health, and training approximately 350 Village Health Volunteers in first aid. A Lao professional psychologist also trained nurses at each district hospital in mental health diagnosis and treatment so that UXO survivors and other patients could be served locally and efficiently.
VAST worked closely with QLA as well as the Ministry of Health, Center for Medical Rehabilitation, and provincial and district hospitals in Xieng Khouang to build their capacity to support UXO survivors. QLA facilitated People with Disabilities Inclusion Committee meetings at the district level to engage government staff in efforts to reduce stigma and increase community accessibility and inclusion for persons with disabilities.
At the end of the VAST program, QLA took ownership of the UXO survivor database, assumed much of VAST’s caseload, and continues to provide psychosocial and livelihoods support for UXO survivors in Xieng Khouang. World Education continues to support UXO victims through administration of the War Victims Medical Fund.