With the support of the Australian embassy in Laos, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA has put up a billboard in front of the Australian Embassy in Laos to highlight the dangers of asbestos.
In Laos, asbestos is often used in construction, particularly for housing for the poor. There are multiple factories that manufacture roof sheeting in Luang Prabang, Vientiane Province, Champasak and Vientiane Capital. The standards for managing raw asbestos are often poor, including manual handling of the fibre and no safe storage or waste management, meaning workers and communities within a two-kilometre radius of the factories are at risk of exposure.
Although APHEDA has been campaigning to increase awareness amongst workers, communities, students, and government officials about the risks of asbestos, there is still a lack of awareness of the need for safe storage or safe removal of old decaying asbestos, which is commonly broken up and reused for road maintenance, water storage tanks and animal pens.
APHEDA is committed to continuing to support local partners to eliminate asbestos-related diseases in Laos as well as in the region and the world.
Australian Ambassador to Cambodia Warns of Asbestos Dangers at World Day for Safety and Health
APHEDA and the Department of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT) Cambodia organised the World Day for Safety and Health event in Phnom Penh on 28 April under the theme “A safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work”.
The event attracted 1300 participants and the speakers included the Minister MoLVT, union and business leaders and the International Labour Organization.
Australian Ambassador to Cambodia Justin Whyatt spoke of the terrible legacy left by asbestos in Australia. He said: “Since the early 1980s, more than 10,000 Australians are estimated to have died from mesothelioma. According to cancer experts, an additional 25,000 deaths are expected over the next four decades. This motivates the Australian government to promote strong occupational health and safety protections around the world.”
He commended APHEDA and the Cambodian government for working to rid Cambodia of asbestos. “We are pleased to support APHEDA to train construction workers, raise public awareness about the hazards of asbestos, and advise local networks involved with eliminating asbestos disease. I am pleased to see that the Cambodian government is making progress to ensure occupational health and safety concerns are included in appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks,” he said.
APHEDA project in Bac Kan Province, Vietnam replacing asbestos roof sheet for at-risk households
Ly Thua Kim and Trieu Tien Ngan are brothers. They have grown up together in Huoi Dam village, Quang Bach commune, Cho Don district, Bac Kan province. Now, when they both have families with wives and children, they are still living next to each other in two small houses on the same land with their parents. They both use asbestos-containing roof sheet for their houses.
While the two husbands are working away from home, their wives, Dang Thi Lieu and Trieu Thi Nai spend most of their time taking care of children and parents-in-law.
Ms. Lieu said: “We have been living under asbestos-containing roof sheet for a long time, but I never feel comfortable with it. It makes the house really hot in summer, and there are some leaks in the bedroom – we always need a bucket if it rains. My family members are sick very often, especially my children. I was very worried about my children”.
Ms. Nai added: “I cannot even read and write, I do not have information about roof sheet, which one is good, which one is bad, I have not heard anything about the risks to health caused by asbestos-containing roof sheet. I am feeling very lucky that our two houses’ old roof sheet have been replaced with new and safe one, thanks to APHEDA and Women’s Union”.
Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA is funding a project called “Promotion of awareness on environmental and health for ethnic minorities in rural and mountainous areas”. It is being implemented by Bac Kan Women’s Union. The objectives are to improve awareness of healthcare for communities, prevent diseases for ethnic minority areas, and improve awareness of using environment-friendly materials for local people, with a focus on asbestos-containing materials.
Two workshops and six training courses have been organised to share information on asbestos hazards and lessons learnt from countries all over the world for local people, ethnic minority communities and government staff at different levels.
Following the training, Kim and Ngan’s families are the first three households who were supported with replacing old roof sheets as a pilot demonstration of asbestos disposal and removal. More families will be supported in the future, not only bringing them safe houses but also a healthy environment without asbestos.
“Now I understand more about asbestos, asbestos-containing roof sheet and the diseases it may cause to our health. I even feel a bit scary when I am close to old AC roof sheet because I know it is dangerous now. I am also a member of the Women’s Union at village, which we have meetings every quarter. Next time, I will share to others what I learn about asbestos to help them know more about the risks”, Ms. Lieu said.
“I am feeling happy for my children when they can grow up in a house without asbestos. The project has not just changed the roof sheet, you have changed our lives, too.”
APHEDA delegates join Asia Ban Network Meeting in Bangkok
Representatives from APHEDA’s Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia country offices and more than 10 local partner representatives, including LION from Indonesia joined the first face-to-face ABAN meeting since the Covid pandemic.
LION Board member and Indonesia Ban Asbestos Network (INA-BAN) member, Mr. Darisman presented on the devastating earthquake that hit West Java last year and their work post-disaster to help communities and Search and Rescue personnel avoid exposure to the airborne fibres released from broken roof sheet.
APHEDA country office representatives provided updates and valuable exchanges and strategies were shared with ban networks from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Commitments were made to work together towards achieving country prohibitions.
APHEDA Country Managers also met PACWASTE representative Lance Richman to better understand the work being undertaking in the Pacific and to share resources for future collaborations.
The Asbestos. Not Here. Not Anywhere project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), Australian trade unions, and members of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.