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The Vientiane Capital Lao Women's Union (LWU), with support from UNICEF, UNFPA and World Vision, launched the first edition of the ‘National Directory of Essential Services for Children and Youth in Lao PDR' on Wednesday at the Vientiane Youth Centre for Health and Development.

The aim of the Directory is to facilitate rapid referral to important public services for the general population, especially children and youth. From serving telephone counselors and international organizations in Vientiane to health workers in the country's most remote areas, the directory's organizers and supporters say it will function as a one-stop information source to improve assistance to children and youth in need. The contents address a full range of related services, including health care, psychosocial support, education and training, advocacy, human rights assistance, services for people with disabilities, income generation, people living with HIV, drug use, emergency service numbers and much more.

"This directory is a proud demonstration of the Lao Women's Union commitment to improving the livelihoods of youth and children," said Mme Lamphoy Siakkhachan, President of Vientiane Capital Lao Women's Union. "Our hope is that this will help to not only facilitate better access to services, but also motivate further improvements in quality and availability of these same services."

Organizers say the Directory builds on existing efforts to collect and collate information that will help to strengthen the delivery of services, technical assistance, coordination and operational support to partners that provide and refer people to services.

"This is a ground breaking initiative to improve access to services for youth and children," said Timothy Schaffter, UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR. "For the first time, we are consolidating this really essential information into one place. We look forward to seeing this continue and expand in coming years."

The directory is free of charge and will be distributed nationally through public health facilities, schools, local associations, non-government organizations, front-line volunteers, private service providers and each of the organizations it lists.

"It's the vision for all of us to deliver in a world where the potential of each individual is fulfilled. This requires us to work harder at understanding the challenges faced by young people today," said Dr. Esther Muia, UNFPA Representative. "Initiatives such as this that support them to overcome those challenges will help ensure Lao PDR is a place where every child and young person's potential is fulfilled."