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National university of Laos and UNFPA cooperate on social work curriculum development

Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR, 22 September 2020 – The National University of Laos (NUOL)’s Faculty of Social Sciences and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) met in Vientiane on Tuesday to review the university’s social work curriculum for the integration of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS).

Participants heard that the NUOL has continued to conduct technical cooperation with UNFPA since 2017 to develop capacity at the faculty. The consultation meeting was attended by Vice President of NUOL, Prof Dr. Houngphet Chanthavong, UNFPA Representative Ms. Mariam A. Khan, along with officials from ministries, UN agencies, and development partners and students.

Ms. Khan said, “I am delighted to join this very important consultation meeting for review of the social work curriculum of NUOL for the integration of mental health and psychosocial support.” In Laos, statistics show that only 41 percent of people that have reported mental health issues have access to treatment and psychosocial support. Mental health issues and stress have increased significantly over the last decade, and the situation of COVID-19 could induce more stress, family tensions, anxiety, confusion, and violence.

Many young people have fewer rights and choices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially adolescent girls and young women, including the loss of employment, education, and access to essential services, especially sexual and reproductive health services. Young women and girls are particularly vulnerable. Recent UNFPA estimates show that there will be 44,333 to 68,541 additional NUOL and UNFPA cooperation on social work curriculum development unintended pregnancies, and an increase in maternal deaths in Laos due to COVID-19. School dropouts are also expected to increase.

Caption: Participants in the consultation meeting on the social work curriculum

However, the cycle of poverty could be limited if the global good practice was used, Ms. Khan explained. Mental health is the foundation for the well-being and effective functioning of individuals. Mental health is the ability to think and learn and the ability to understand and live with someone’s emotions and the reaction of others.

To address the issues, UNFPA Laos has worked together with relevant line-ministries, mass organisations, and young people to develop psychosocial support and counselling initiatives through the women-friendly spaces and outreach initiatives on Youth-Friendly services, Telephone help-lines, the ‘Noi Yakhoo’ application, and ‘Phetsouksa’ video to provide online information for young people.

UNFPA will scale this support to strengthen health services and workforces ensuring universal access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health information, mental health, and psychosocial support and services for women and young people during the COVID-19 outbreak in Laos. In the long-term, UNFPA will strengthen national capacity to provide psychosocial support through the review of the NUOL social work curriculum to make sure the core elements and guidelines for essential services are based on International Guidelines and Standards Related to Social Work such as crisis information, crisis counselling, safe accommodation, material and financial aid, psychosocial support and counselling, children’s services, and community outreach.

For more information, please contact

Mr. Oloth SENE-ASA, National Programme Analyst for SRH in UNFPA Laos



UNFPA, the UN's sexual and reproductive health agency, works in over 150 countries including Lao PDR, to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices towards women and girls.