Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo and Laos Minister of Health Bounkong Syhavong discussed plans to expand cooperation in the field of health and welfare between the two countries last week.
The discussions came as part of the Lee Jong-wook Fellowship program, established in 2007 by the ministry and Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH), aiming to develop the health and welfare of developing countries.
|Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo (left) and Laos Minister of Health Bounkong Syhavong hold a picture after they discussed mutual cooperation at Park's office in Sejong City on Sunday.|
Minister Syhavong noted Laos had had a long history of cooperation with Korea through a 25.7 billion won ($22.9 million) cooperation project on the medical system of the mother and child that started in 2010 as well as the Lee Jong-wook Fellowship program.
The northwestern region of Laos, in particular, had poor mother-child welfare system. The health and welfare service improved considerably after the Southeast Asian country participated in the official development assistance (ODA) program provided by KOFIH.
The number of pregnant women getting prenatal care increased from 26 percent to 50 percent, while pregnancies delivered by experienced personnel rose from 26 to 42 percent and the rate of preventive vaccinations in infants increased from 45 to 74 percent.
The Laos government also independently developed capabilities to provide better health and welfare through various projects and its self-designed mother-child welfare voucher pilot project, the ministry said.
The Phongsali region, which has been in particularly poor condition due to the lack of international support, is expected to see improvements through the mother-child project started by KOFIH this year. Minister Syhavong expressed his gratitude in that regard, the ministry added.
"LAOS is a country that participated most actively in the Lee Jong-wook Fellowship program. We hope that the Laos personnel assigned through the invitational workshop project will help improve not only the health and welfare of Laos but also develop the health and welfare cooperation relationship between the two countries," Minister Park said.
Starting this year, the two ministries will work jointly on various projects
The KOFIH will operate a medical device maintenance center operated by medical device engineers in efforts to strengthen the medical device maintenance operation system in Laos. The 5 billion won project aims to solve the problem of a lackluster medical device maintenance system. Currently, a lack of education regarding medical device and technology makes it difficult to repair broken machines and instead results in having to buy a new one.
Starting in 2019, the KOFIH will also provide hospital consulting services, including hospital design, pre- and post-operation methods concerning the establishment of Laos’ first National Medical School Hospital.
Also, given Laos is surrounded by five countries -- China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia -- and urgently requires an infectious disease maintenance system, the ministry said that it would start a 3.3 billion won contagious disease diagnosis and screening system project. It will also share Korea's experience and know-how in containing infectious diseases.
"The government will aggressively pursue the expansion of diplomatic relations with the 10 ASEAN nations, including Laos," Minister Park said. "The Ministry of Health and Welfare of Korea and the Ministry of Health of Laos are expected to continue to work closely together to achieve tangible results."