Health Leadership International works exclusively in the People’s Republic of Lao (Lao PDR), a landlocked country in Southeast Asia about the size of the state of Utah. Lao PDR shares borders with China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. A mountainous country laced with rivers, the Mekong flows through nearly 1,900 kilometers of countryside, shaping both the culture and livelihood of Lao’s 47 distinct ethnic groups.

Lao PDR is a predominantly Buddhist country.  An estimated 6.6 million people, live in remote, rural areas and depend upon rice cultivation and fishing. Many lack access to clean water and improved sanitation. Lao’s geography, together with a sizable amount of unexploded ordnance that remains from the Vietnam War, have hindered the development of roads and infrastructure. The Lao government has made significant efforts to reduce poverty and improve health and education to meet the UN 2020 Millennium Goals.

Two-thirds of its more than six million inhabitants live in rural areas and the country’s heavily forested, mountainous terrain and lack of connective infrastructure make access to government services difficult.