Vientiane, 15 May 2017
The Government of Lao PDR marks its commitment for stunting reduction among children under five years old through a multi-sectorial convergence approach.
The European Union and UNICEF announced today the scaling up of their partnership to address nutrition needs in Lao PDR. The Ministry of Health hosted the launch of the EU/UNICEF “Partnership for Improved Nutrition in Lao PDR” in Vientiane.
The 5 year programme will focus on ten provinces: Phongsaly, Luangprabang, Luangnamtha, Houaphan, Bokeo, Xiengkhouang, Khammuane, Savannakhet, Saravane and Attapeu.
The support comes at a critical time as nutrition is a key concern in Lao PDR, where at least one out of three of children under the age of 5 suffer from stunting (too short for their age).
In his remarks, H.E Associate Professor, Dr. Bounkong Sihavong, Minister of Health, said that “to achieve the objectives of the National Strategies on Nutrition and SDGs, there is a need for sound management systems, coordination mechanisms, clear communication, and multi-sectorial cooperation between development partners and donors, social organizations and the public sector, to effectively implement the projects at all levels. One of the keys in the success on nutrition is the promotion of Community Ownership on Nutrition and Food Security”.
The partners aim at “strengthening nutrition governance for a multi-sectoral response and scaling up nutrition-specific actions” In their respective speeches, the Minister of Health, the EU Ambassador and the UNICEF’s Representative stressed the imperative need for a multi-sectoral convergence approach in order to accelerate stunting reduction in Lao PDR.
To address this problem, Lao PDR scaled up interventions with a proven impact on nutrition. The most recent scientific evidence has shown that interventions with a proven impact on nutrition are not only nutrition-specific interventions but also nutrition-sensitive interventions from different sectors, including: health, food security, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), social protection, education, gender promotion, the private sector and social and behavior change communication.
Mr Leo Faber, EU Ambassador stressed that it was “time to get into real action together and massively scale up efforts at the community level to reach much more people in the shortest possible time and over an extended period of time, not with classical donor-funded ''model projects'' but by supporting a whole-of-government approach to deliver its basic services in a more coordinated manner.”
Beyond the health impact such as increased risk of death from diarrhea and pneumonia, stunting is also associated with poor cognitive development. Stunting produces permanent and irreversible damages at the physical and brain level, which significantly increase the risk of child mortality and dramatically decrease the development of learning capacities. Stunted children will reach a low level of education and will be less productive adults. This decline of productivity can have a significant impact on the economic development of the country.
“The first 1.000 days, from conception to the age of 2, are the most critical period for a child’s physical and mental growth,” said Ms Hongwei Gao, UNICEF’s Representative in Lao PDR, during the launch in Vientiane. “We must ensure that children are protected from malnutrition so that they can realize their rights to survival and development and contribute to the growth of human capital in the country. The strategic partnership with the EU and the Ministry of Health enable us to reach out to more children in Lao PDR.”
The EU’s 9 million Euro contribution is part of an 11.25 million Euro funding package tackling malnutrition, in cooperation with the National Nutrition Committee Secretariat, the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Education and the Lao Women’s Union. The remaining funds are provided by UNICEF own funds, UNICEF Australia and mining company MMG, while the implementation at province and district levels is coordinated with local authorities and the wider group of Development Partners working on Food and Nutrition Security.
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