Following the devastating floods caused by the collapse of a dam, ChildFund Laos is supporting children and families who have lost their homes and are now living in overcrowded emergency shelters. It is estimated that these temporary refuges are housing more than 6,000 people.

This week, the Lao government confirmed 34 people had died in the floods and 97 people remain missing, prompting concerns the death toll will rise.

ChildFund Australia Senior Emergency Response Advisor Sanwar Ali said Laos, one of Asia’s poorest countries, needed support to help the affected families.

“The shelters are not very well managed and lack basic facilities such as toilets, and there are already reports of diseases spreading,” Mr Ali said.

The floods came after heavy rain in late July caused the collapse of a dam in Attapeu province, southern Laos. Five villages were completely swept away, and another eight were affected.

Thousands of families have lost their homes and all their possessions, and children now face an uncertain future.

The exact number of children impact by this disaster is unknown, but an initial assessment of the evacuation centres found they did not have adequate child protection measures in place.

ChildFund is sending an experienced team to establish Child Friendly Spaces in three evacuation centres.

These spaces, which ChildFund has used in its emergency responses around the world, will provide a safe environment where children can start their recovery from trauma.

They will be stocked with books and learning materials so that children whose homes and schools were washed away do not fall behind with their education.

“Children are expected to go back to school at the beginning of September but this is now being brought into question,” Mr Ali said.

“There is a need to provide a platform for a progressive return to formal education and schooling.”

ChildFund is also providing mobile latrines that will help stem the spread of disease, which is a high risk during flooding.

“Toilets will be provided at each Child Friendly Space so that children and mothers can access clean sanitation facilities, which will improve their health and keep them safe from waterborne disease,” Mr Ali said.

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Photo: Children walking through flooding in northern Laos in 2013.

ChildFund Australia and the Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Centre have entered a partnership to strengthen protection for some of the most vulnerable children in the Asia-Pacific.

ChildFund Australia Chief Executive Officer Nigel Spence said the two child-focused organisations have agreed to cooperate by sharing information, research and program experience aimed at protecting and promoting children’s rights across the region.

“The Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Centre (BCLARC) has many significant achievements in China in helping at-risk children,” Mr Spence.

“They have an extensive network of around 10,000 pro bono lawyers helping children with the law and have been influential in strengthening child protection laws in China. ”

The partnership between ChildFund Australia and BCLARC also opens up the potential to explore joint projects in the region.

ChildFund Australia has deep ties in Asia, overseeing national offices in Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

It is also a member of the global ChildFund Alliance, which assists more than 14 million children in over 60 countries.

Many of ChildFund’s activities aim to strengthen children’s rights at all levels and ensure children have a voice in issues that affect them.

Child protection and children’s rights are also the central focus for BCLARC, which became China’s first NGO focusing on child rights in 1999 and provides free legal aid to vulnerable children and youth throughout the country.

As well as providing legal advice for children and youth, BCLARC regularly publishes legal and policy research, and has contributed extensively to policy reform in China on child protection and children’s welfare.

“ChildFund’s is working in many of the poorest communities in Asia to protect children’s rights and ensure children can grow up free from violence and exploitation.  BCLARC has a great deal of expertise in this field,” Mr Spence said.

“So there are many opportunities for our organisations to work together for the benefit of children and youth in Asia.”