Attapeu, Community Development

The Attapeu Community Development Project

Since early 2010, SFE has been developing a new community health development project in Attapeu province. Currently the second phase of this project is being implemented with a total 13 target villages.

With Community Health Development SFE introduced a new feature to its previous projects by actively involving villagers in the development. Our aim is that they master the various activities by participating in all the project steps, from initial needs assessment to problem solving and implementation. From its experience in outreach work in Laos, SFE has developed special skills for a suitable approach for underdeveloped communities. Our range of activities includes basic and general health education, provision of improved water supply and toilets as well as nutrition, agriculture and improved access to basic health care through village pharmacies and support of health centers. The regional Health Services encourages SFE to work with them in this area because SFE reaches areas receiving minimal international aid and also because the project activities help achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The first project phase implemented from 2010-2013 has shown good results regarding the objectives of increasing health and living conditions of the target population. Thus, SFE decided to start a second phase of the same project with 13 new project villages from 2013-2016.

Details of the project

The SFE Community Health Development Project is working with poor and mostly very remote villages in Attapeu province. The total number of people living in the 13 current project villages is around 5,100 people. The aim of the project is to improve population health and help them develop their villages in an appropriate and sustainable way. Needs assessment is conducted in all villages at the beginning of the project. This process takes about three days, during which the SFE team evaluates with the villagers their problems and possible solutions. Then, an activity plan specific to each village is drawn. Activities may vary from one village to another, but the following are the main activities conducted in all villages:

  • Teaching the villagers about basic health, especially disease prevention and agricultural practices

  • Selecting suitable volunteers (each one responsible for 10 families) to set up a village development committee (VDC).

  • Further in depth training for these volunteers (VDC) to enable them to supervise and then teach a group of families.

  • Medical training for two village health volunteers (VHV) in the treatment of common diseases including provision of village pharmacies.

  • Treatment of village patients, working with the health volunteers (VHV), and especially visiting the more difficult cases.

  • Training of traditional birth attendants about safer maternity techniques.

  • Supplying water: in some villages by installation of hand-pumps in others by using gravity water systems or electric pumps.

  • Toilet construction with the objective that eventually every household has – and uses – its own toilet.

  • Offering small income-generating activities, such as breeding of cattle, pigs or chicken and mushroom cultivation in order to help poorer families according to their needs.

  • Specific assistance in villages, such as providing school supplies, providing fruit trees, mosquito nets or sports equipment for group activities.

For all these activities, the population has to participate and contribute e.g. for toilets, the family has to provide the wood, sand and labor necessary to dig the pit and build the house. If a person is not able to do that, other villagers are encouraged to help. SFE provides the rest of the materials and teaches villagers how to build. Those participating in the development work receive no salary as they are simply given some small gifts such as a t-shirt, pens or soap. This is the only way to ensure sustainability, meaning that activities started during the project will continue beyond the withdrawal of SFE. Villagers sometimes have difficulties accepting this approach especially if they have already worked with other organizations which provide everything. But slowly over time, they understand and realize the value of “through helping others you help yourself.”

The staff for this project consists of 2 expatriates (the project manager and an engineer) and the following local employees:

  • a team for the educations : a doctor, a nurse, 2 agricultural specialists

  • a team for construction: a water technician and an assistant/driver

  • a team for the office: an administrator, an accountant and a housekeeper (half time position)

They normally form two to three teams depending on the activities planned for each week. The villages concerned are mostly remote (between 5 and 160 km from Attapeu) and poor road conditions (most of them dirt roads) means that the team usually goes for several days to a week to visit several villages in the same region without having to travel back to the office in the provincial capital. They take everything with them for the week, including drinking water and food, because it is difficult to buy anything in these remote villages. The team members are welcomed by the villagers, sleep in their homes and eat with them, thus creating stronger relationships that enable the team to better understand the life and needs of target population.

The project is mainly funded by a private foundation “The Kadoorie Charitable Foundation” as well as by contributions from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Bread for All (PPP), Hilfe fur Bruder and Christliche Fachkräfte International (CFI).

The currently second phase started in October 2013 and will end in September 2016. A continuation of a similar project is planned but the exact place and time are still open.