UN agencies support Lao Government efforts against flooding

A rapid assessment task force, linking UN agencies, the Government, donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), was set up earlier this week to coordinate the response to the floods, which have inundated towns, villages and farmland along the Mekong River.The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) are among the agencies helping in the relief efforts, according to a press release issued by UNICEF on Tuesday.Preliminary information from Lao officials indicates that at least 150,000 people have been affected across seven provinces of the landlocked country, with information not yet received from three other provinces.UNICEF and WHO have voiced particular concern about potential public health problems emerging from the congestion and poor sanitation and hygiene at evacuation centres in the capital, Vientiane.UN staff members in Laos are also working alongside local volunteers to sandbag along the Mekong in the capital and at the airport.Sonam Yangchen Rana, UN Resident Coordinator, praised both the Government for its response to the floods and “the spirit of solidarity among the Lao people who tirelessly help in building up protection walls along the river.” 21 August 2008United Nations humanitarian agencies are assisting the Lao Government to bring relief to more than 150,000 people who have been affected by some of the worst flooding in a century in the South-East Asian country.