Samneua is the capital of Huaphanh Province, which is located in the east of Laos. This province has a population of 311, 000 inhabitants and is home to 22 different ethnic groups. Huaphanh is one of the poorest provinces in the country. Furthermore, the Golden Triangle is also located in this province. This is the place where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet, and it is also the area were the second largest amount of illicit opium poppy is cultivated in the world. Children are most vulnerable to poverty, and to the dangers of addiction and cultivation of opium.
Since 2004, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Samneua.
Although there has been a decrease in the last five years, Huaphanh, where Samneua is located, remains one of the poorest provinces in Laos, with a 28% poverty rate.
Children are most affected by poverty, and only 67% of children aged 11 to 14 go to school.
They are also most affected by food scarcity, with 40% of children in the province suffering from stunting, which is a measurement of low height for age, caused by undernutrition.
Poverty is also one of the causes of child marriage. Indeed, in Huaphanh province, 50% of women aged 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18.
In the Huaphanh province, up to 15% of the population is involved in cultivation of opium. In 2006, the growing of the plant was made illegal in Laos. However, the production still exists, especially among the poorest, driven by the lack of alternative sources of income. By 2015, the amount of cultivation had tripled since 2007. Multiple programmes have been created, by the Laos Government and external organizations, to control the cultivation and mitigate the addiction, like for example helping farmers to switch to cultivating coffee instead. Not only is the cultivation a problem in Laos, but also the addiction. And children are the biggest victims of this, losing relatives to production, trafficking and addiction.