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A safer future

Your regular support is giving young mothers like Niu access to life-saving clean water and safe toilets. Not only that, but you're helping to ensure communities like Niu's are better educated about health and hygiene, ensuring a brighter future for their children.

Nine months pregnant, Niu is expecting her second child any day, and both she and her husband Sobhat are worried for the health of their daughter and new baby. "Our two-year-old child has been getting very sick from diarrhoea," she says.

You're helping us respond directly to requests for help

Niu and Sobhat live in the small village of Nangoi, eastern Laos, 100 kilometres from the border with Vietnam.

Australian Red Cross supporters like you are helping Lao Red Cross respond to villagers' requests for a project to increase awareness of health and hygiene. Your support is also helping to provide safe water and toilets to people in villages like theirs.

As Niu kneels on the floor to wash the dishes outside the back door of her house, water drips off the thatched roof of the small hut into bowls scattered on the veranda. "This is the only way we have clean water in the rainy season," she says.

A long trek is needed to collect clean water in the searing heat, explains Niu. "If you want to collect clean water from the spring, you have to walk two or three hours," Niu adds, gesturing to the forested mountains in the distance.

Sobhat says the rain is good for the crops but makes him worry that their water sources will get even dirtier because everything gets washed down towards the village. "I get sick with diarrhoea every year, especially in the rainy season. Not only me, but the children too."

With your support, a healthy future is in sight

Every year in Laos, poor sanitation and hygiene cause at least three million cases of disease and 6,000 deaths - many of which can be prevented by vital projects like those you're helping to support.

Two thirds of the Lao population live in the countryside and close to half the people in rural villages have no access to basic toilets or safe water for drinking and washing hands. That's why your support of the Red Cross's work on water, health and hygiene is so desperately needed.

"Our two-year-old has abdominal disease but we are not sure what it is. There is a lot of gas and she's in pain," Sobhat explains.

Thanks to supporters like you, villages like Niu's will soon have communal taps for safe water, and the goal is for all households in Niu's village to have their own toilets by the end of the year.

Many of the community members have not seen a toilet or public tap, so Dr Bounma Xayasouk, who heads the health program at Lao Red Cross, explains that education around hygiene is also being rolled out in the months ahead.

It can't come too soon for Niu and Sobhat. There is no doctor or nurse in the village, and they have no vehicle to make the half-hour journey on the pot-holed dirt road to the closest clinic when they or their children get sick.

Looking down at her pregnant tummy, Niu smiles.

"We are very happy that we'll have clean water and toilets. It will really improve our health and our entire lives."

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