SEATTLE — Although initially tumultuous, the U.S.’s relationship with Laos has developed into a beneficial one within the last 30 years. Marked by a history of conflict particularly during the Cold War, the countries restored diplomatic ties in 1992. Nowadays, the United States’ assistance to Laos, which is largely concentrated within the health sector, demonstrates a new era of cooperation and development.
While diplomacy was officially restored in 1992, the Obama Administration played a large role in creating today’s foreign relations with Laos. In 2016, President Obama was the first U.S. president to visit Laos and it was there that he launched the Comprehensive Partnership. This partnership laid the groundwork for a relationship of mutual respect, cooperation and continued assistance to Laos.
The Comprehensive Partnership includes many principles such as humanitarian cooperation, education cooperation, economic ties and more. However, a particularly strong component of the Comprehensive Partnership that has been demonstrated recently is the U.S.’s commitment to disaster relief as well as improving health and nutrition in Laos.
Recent U.S. Assistance to Laos
Following the implementation of the Comprehensive Partnership, the U.S. increased its assistance and aid to Laos. The U.S. has been quite involved in providing disaster relief to Laos, especially since the country experiences floods frequently. In July of 2018 and September of 2019, the U.S. provided $100,000 of aid to be specifically used for flood emergency relief.
Another way in which the U.S. has supported disaster relief efforts in Laos is by providing funds for the country’s COVID-19 response. On three separate occasions from February to July of 2020, the U.S. through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated several millions of dollars for COVID-19 containment and treatment efforts, all of which amounted to greater than $7.5 million of assistance.
Finally, the U.S. has been very involved in preventing malaria and other diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes. Since the initiation of President George W. Bush’s President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the U.S. has provided many countries affected by malaria with resources to combat the disease.
With the restoration of diplomatic ties and the creation of the Comprehensive Partnership, the USAID works in conjunction with the Laos government to accomplish the goal of completely eliminating malaria from the country by 2030. Most recently in July of 2020, the USAID provided Laos with 88,000 specially treated mosquito nets to be distributed to families in regions most affected by mosquito-borne diseases. In total, the U.S. has given Laos 700,000 mosquito nets, 470,000 diagnostic tests and 112,000 anti-malarial treatments.
The Successes of Renewed U.S.-Laos Diplomacy
A significant portion, if not all, of the U.S.’s assistance and aid to Laos can be attributed to successful diplomatic negotiations between the two nations. Without these negotiations, especially the Comprehensive Partnership of the Obama Administration, it is possible that Laos would have suffered greater tragedies from natural disasters, COVID-19 and mosquito-borne diseases. Therefore, the U.S. has demonstrated a commitment to improving living conditions within Laos and it is crucial that this favorable relationship continues for generations to come.
– Alanna Jaffee