Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) is located in Southeast Asia, a region that has grown rapidly
during the last three decades. Lao PDR is ranked as one of the poorest or least developed countries in
the region and in the world. According to the UNDP Global Human Development Index (HDI), Lao PDR
was ranked as 133rd out of 179 countries.
Lao PDR has a total land area of approximately 236,800 square kilometers, 80% of which is mountainous. The
population in 2009 was about 6.3 million and the total gross domestic product (GDP) was US$ 5 billion,
with a GDP per capita of US$ 940. The population growth is around 2% annually and the population
density is about 27/square kilometer. 26% of people lived below the poverty line in 2010.
Similar to its neighbor countries, the Lao PDR government has given a high priority to economic growth
that enhances the welfare of its people. By late 1980s, the country had opened investments, converted
to a market-oriented economy and launched a decentralization policy. This policy has stabilized macroeconomic
conditions and ensured a steady, sustained growth and macro-equilibrium. The average GDP
growth per capita was about 7.9% in 2006.
The agricultural and industrial sectors are contributing to almost 75% of the GDP. The service sector
covers about 25% of the GDP. In the past years, the country has faced widespread food insecurity with
over a third of the population experiencing rice shortfalls of 2-6 months/year. Based on a 2007 countrywide
National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment conducted by WFP, it is estimated that up to 46% of
the rural population in Lao PDR - approximately 188,000 households, most of whom are living in
lowlands - are at risk of becoming food insecure because of either loss of access to natural resources,
floods, drought, or a sudden increase in food prices. This is in addition to the 2% of people who are
already chronically food insecure.
Lao PDR is vulnerable to extreme events, such as droughts and floods. These disturbances are increasing
in frequency and severity, affecting food security, drinking water supply and irrigation, public health
systems, environmental management and lifestyle.
Selected Indicators for Impacts and Vulnerabilities