Queen Mathilde left for Laos: a 21 hour journey on 3 different flights.As honorary chair of UNICEF Belgium, queen Mathilde visits Laos, focusing on quality education, physical and mental health of children and the survival of malnourished children.
As SDG advocate for the UN, queen Mathilde will focus on the SDG goals that aim to empower the position of women and children.
Monday 20 February 2017
Arrival in Vientiane, Laos. Queen Mathilde is greeted at the airport by the Belgian ambassador to Laos & Thailand, Philippe Kridelka.
Mr Kridelka is no stranger to the queen since he used to be one of king Philippe's advisors. Before that, he was a UNESCO representative at the UN.
Meeting with the deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Khamphao Eunthavanh, and with the President of the Lao Women’s Union, Ms Inlavanh Keobounphanh.
She received a handmade silk scarf as a gift.
Meeting with the President,
Tuesday 21 February 2017
On her second day in Laos, queen Mathilde visited various Unicef projects.
Visit to Sanon Village and the Saravan program for nutrition.
The Lao Women's Union at Tha Mueang providing parenting education.
Visiting a youth media project: radio and social media provided the young generation., who were allowed to interview Mathilde.
During the day, Mathilde spilled coffee on her top... She tried to cover it up with a scarf.
After these visits, queen Mathilde changed for an official dinner.
Wednesday 22 February 2017
Visiting a kindergarten in Doub, and their 'WASH' program to teach the children to prevent diseases by regularly washing their hands.
Screening of malnutrition at the health centre at Tahouak.
Visit to a school kindergarten & primary school. In the poor Saravan region only 28 % of the 3 to 5 year olds attend school.
Afterwards Mathilde gave interviews.
Journalist: On missions like these we have the impression you would like to help out, step in and nurse the children or teach them. Is that correct?
Mathilde: I can't help it, I'm a speech therapist... I like to take care of children. It's something that's a real part of me, it always has been! Yes, it's true... I'd love to stay longer.
Journalist: Do you sometimes feel powerless?
Mathilde: I do what I can. And one of the things I can do is talk to policy makers and tell them how important it is to invest in education and health care. I try to do it to the best of my abilities.
Journalist: Your own children live in a different world: they get good schooling and have excellent food. How aware are they of this?
Mathilde: After each mission I try to discuss this with my children. We want our children to be aware of what's going on in the world. Of what happens in countries like Laos. My children also volunteer. I think it's important for them to see how other children live.
Journalist: Would you like for the crown princess to follow in your footsteps?
Mathilde: That would be her dream I think! But she has to go to school! It would also be my own dream to do something similar with my children, not just Elisabeth - all four of them. But for now they have to set the example and go to school.
Thursday 24 February 2017
Visit to the Wat-Phu Temple in Paksé.
Mathilde's convoy includes 15 cars. When they passed the scene of a road accident that had apparently just happened, Mathilde asked her driver to stop. Her delegation included two doctors working for UNICEF, the United Nations' Children's Fund.
Mathilde left the car, called the doctors and checked how the victims were. She only got back in the car when she certain that the victims had only sustained light injuries. The convoy continued, but the doctors stayed on the site to supply further assistance.
A meeting with local UNICEF staff and volunteers concluded the mission.