War Victims Medical Fund in Laos

World Education set up the Lao War Victims Medical Fund (WVMF) to pay for the cost of medical treatment for survivors of accidents from explosive remnants of war. The WVMF encourages accident victims to access medical treatment after an accident and to ensure that the cost of medical treatment does not deplete the family’s resources. The fund is administered by the Provincial Department of Health and the hospital doctors, through a committee specifically set up to manage this fund. An important aspect of this fund is that World Education trains and provides regular follow up support to the Department of Health so they can access funds immediately, manage the funds properly, and provide financial reports on the use of the funds. WVMF presently operates in Houaphan, Savannakhet, and Xieng Khouang, three provinces with high remnants of war ordnance contamination. This year the WVMF will be set up in Salavan and Champassak, two provinces which also are highly contaminated with explosive remnants of war in southern Laos.

Bounchoi and his father while he received treatment at Mahosot Hospital, October 2 2005. In addition to injuries to his neck, he also has weakness of his left side due to nerve injury. World Education facilitated his receiving physical therapy at the National Rehabilitation Center after he was released from the hospital.

Before the start of the War Victims Medical Fund, families had to sell land and other assets or borrow money in order to pay for the treatment costs. In some cases, accident victims died before funds could be collected. Because families know that a fund is available, they now bring their injured relatives to the hospitals more quickly, which further reduces the risk of complications or death.

Since 1995, World Education has assisted accident survivors in Laos by improving the medical system which serves them and by implementing education and awareness projects to prevent further accidents.

Some People Assisted by the War Victim’s Medical Fund:

Bounchoi at home with his mother and sister, November 14 2005. His mother has been helping him with exercises to strengthen the muscles of his left arm and leg. The province hospital staff showed her how to take care of the tracheostomy. He is able to eat and has been comfortable. He will be returning to Khon Kaen in May for the final closure of the tracheostomy. To date, the costs of medical care have been over 2,000 USD. If the WVMF were not available, the family would not have been able to afford the cost of care.

Mr. Bounmy, in the center, had lost his left arm in an accident in 1995 when he was working in the family rice fields. With support from his uncle, he completed high school. The Mennonite Central Committee and private sponsorship support funded further computer and English language training for one year. The National Rehabilitation Center helped him to enter the Sikert Vocational Training Center. This photograph shows Bounmy at the graduation ceremony. He received a certificate in computer technology. Other people in the photograph include Mr. Arthur Mann, far left, from MCC and Dr. Thongchan, second from the right.

Bounmy is currently considering his options, which include working at a shop in Xieng Khouang where he can be closer to his family. He can also continue studying English.

Mr. Onekham was injured in an accident when he was very young, leaving him partially sighted. For several years, he was able to attend school after being fitted with new glasses but his vision has worsened. Because he would like to continue secondary school, the Quality of Life Rehabilitation Fund, supported with MCC funding, have funded follow-up evaluation at the Eye Center. Currently, he is learning braille and has started to attend an Inclusive Education School in Vientiane.

Ms. Sisomphan was injured in an accident in 2002. She received extensive abdominal injuries and had been hospitalized for two months at Mahosot Hospital. These expenses were paid for by the WVMF. Although she had wanted to study medicine or nursing, she was not able to pass the examinations this year. She is now in the food preparation program at the Center for Skills Development in Vientiane with the hope that she will be able to support herself and continue her studies in the future.

Mai was 18 years old when she stepped on a landmine. In Houa Meuang District, there had been army camps and heavy fighting during the war. Mai did not know that there was a mine field in the village that her family had just moved to, and set out to pick bamboo shoots. Just inside the forest she stepped on a land mine. Because of the remoteness of the village, it took a long time to arrive at the province hospital in Sam Neua, Houaphan Province. The wound became infected and Mai received most of her treatment at The Trauma Center at Friendship Hospital in Vientiane. Transportation, treatment, and per diem for food was paid for by the War Victim’s Medical Fund.

The picture at the left was taken in September 2005. The picture below is of Mai before she left Vientiane in January 2006. She has experience as a weaver and the Quality of Life fund in Houaphan is arranging assistance so she can start weaving again.