Savannakhet is the capital of the Savannakhet Province, and has a population of 125,000 inhabitants. It’s the second biggest city in Laos, within the largest province of Laos.
Savannakhet is connected to Thailand by a bridge crossing the Mekong river. This fosters economic activity in the city.
Slowly, the city is growing economically, but poverty is still present in the province, partly caused by the high dependency on agriculture. This sector is also the cause of soil erosions in the region, due to the slash-and-burn technique used in the prevalent rice production.
Since 2008, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Savannakhet.
The province of Savannakhet is one of the poorest provinces in Laos, with a 27% poverty rate. There has only been a small decrease in poverty in the last five years.
Children are most affected by poverty. For example only 41% of children aged 11 to 14 go to school in Savannakhet. The majority have dropped out to earn an income.
Children are also most affected by food scarcity, with 28% of children in the province suffering from stunting, which is a measurement of low height for age. This is because, over the years, children do not get the food they need to grow healthily.
Agriculture still accounts for half of Laos’ gross domestic product, and provides 80% of employment. Rice accounts for 80% of all agricultural activity in Laos. The main rice-producing areas are along the Mekong River, which includes the city of Savannakhet. One of the production systems used in Laos is called slash-and-burn, a method that involves cutting and burning of the plants to create a field, which recovers and creates new fertile soil. The problem with this technique is that this causes erosion from deforestation. These erosions, combined with high risk of floods in Savannakhet due to climate change, make it a dangerous place to live, and children are most vulnerable in these crises.