- Health

Ensuring Safer Migration In COVID-19 Times

As COVID-19 continues to impact society, many countries in South East Asia are opening their borders and telling the world that they are now ‘open for business’.

Lao migrant workers remain at the heart of this drive to reopen as many who returned to Laos when lockdowns were introduced now prepare to return to bordering countries as they kickstart their economies.

The migration of thousands of workers from Laos to Thailand, working in domestic services, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and entertainment, especially those from the bordering provinces of Champassak and Savannakhet, has begun, and brings with it a unique set of both challenges and opportunities.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is working alongside the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MoLSW) to increase awareness on safe migration during COVID-19 for Lao migrant workers under the United Nations Joint Programme on the ‘Protection and Services for Vulnerable Settlements, Migrants and Youth in Savannakhet and Champassak’, and has partnered with the United National Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism (MICT) to broadcast radio programmes to guide workers on migrating safety, and support for those who have recently returned to the Lao PDR.

UNDP, IOM, MICT, and the Lao National Radio held training events in Champassak and Savannakhet on Safe Migration and COVID-19 from March 22 – 25. The training aimed to guide the radio stations on how to broadcast essential information for migrant workers that travel during COVID-19.

The training also targeted the provincial and district radio programmers in producing creative radio spot advertisements to better engage local communities in the two southern provinces on safe migration, as it effects so many families in these areas.

From the training, radio broadcasters can effectively disseminate pre and post migration information through radio programming, especially regarding illegal migration, can help connect workers to job centers and migrant resource center locations, and most importantly, provide up to date public health information in following COVID-19 guidelines. Understanding viral symptoms, country restrictions and isolation rules continue to be essential for ensuring safe migration as people begin to move again for work. Mr. Sangkhane Choumkhamphanh, Deputy Director-General of the Lao National Radio, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism praised the community radios for this work:

“Radio media is at the heart of our efforts in conveying important messages to the Lao community, especially migrant workers. During COVID-19, migrant workers were and continue to be particularly vulnerable. This training content is, therefore the most important to the Lao migrants in Champassak and Savannakhet, where we see high rates of migration to neighboring countries.”

“Radio broadcasting has proved to be critical in ensuring people across the country access important information during COVID-19,” added Seán O’Connell, Head of Governance with UNDP. “Building on our long-standing partnership with MICT, we were able to develop and broadcast radio programming on key issues during the pandemic, including on education, health, gender-based violence and UXO awareness. Now we are able to guide radio broadcasters, who have been vital in ensuring vital information gets to the people who need it during COVID-19, develop new programming on safe migration for Lao workers.

“Information about safe migration, pandemic support and employment services is very important for Lao workers, as it supports them to make better decision about migration and work particularly during COVID-19,” added Sia Kondeh, Head of Labour Mobility and Human Development Unit with IOM.

“Through radio broadcasting we are able to expand information outreach from quarantine centres and border crossing points to reach wider communities, alongside the MoLSW and in partnership with UNDP. The training content supports radio broadcasters to enhance their knowledge about safe migration, so they can in turn provide vital information on safe migration, pandemic and employment support to Lao workers, their families, and communities in Champassak and Savannakhet,” said Sia Kondeh.

The collaboration between MICT, UNDP, and IOM comes at a crucial time as workers consider moving again, and exploring opportunities presented by the lifting of restrictions in neighboring countries.

The dissemination of information in communities in Champassak and Savannakhet equips migrant workers, particularly youth who are entering the labour force for the first time, with the knowledge and awareness of migrating safely, in way that balances economic opportunity with health and well-being as the country continues to build forward better from COVID-19.

Source: Lao News Agency