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Ministry, WFP discuss nutrition project

The Ministry of Health and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) have jointly reviewed a progress report on nutrition programmes in Laos as they plan for the next five years.

The workshop was attended by Minister of Heal th, Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, WFP Country Director and representative, Ms Sarah Gordon-Gibson, and WHO Representative to Laos, Dr Juliet Fleischl.

Laos has the highest rates of malnutrition in South-East Asia with more than one-third of children under the age of five suffering from stunting or chronic malnutrition, the report states.

This report contains an analysis of the nutrition situation in Laos, compares the potential impacts of interventions and identifies programme and policy entry points to ensure consumption of an adequately nutritious diet by househo lds, particularly young mothers and their children.

Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong said the workshop would help increase knowledge of the nutrient gap report and nutrition programme in Laos.

He said the report supports the implementation of the National Nutrition Strategy and Plan of Action to reduce the level of chronic malnutrition from 35.6 percent this year to 25 percent by 2025.

“Good nutrition in the first 1,000 days of an infant's life is vital to meet these goals,” he said.

The first 1,000 days refers to the window of opportunity from a child's conception through to its second birthday.

Inadequate nutrition during this time can irreversibly hamper cognitive and physical development, he said.

The key finding shows that while nutritious food is available across the country, many people cannot afford it. In fact, the cost and availabilit y of a nutritious diet varies significantly.

The report shows that when people can't afford a basic diet, stunting rates are higher, he added.

It is essential to give adolescent girls and pregnant and breastfeeding women an adequate diet because they need to consume enough nutritious food to produce healthy breast milk.

Ms Sarah Gordon-Gibson said that while the report showed Laos had made significant progress over recent years to decrease levels of chronic malnutrition, it also highlighted the challenges on the road ahead.

She said the recommendations contained in the report would assist the country to work towards the elimination of all forms of maln utrition and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets.

The report provides a detailed review of nutrition, dietary intake, food security, household food expenditure and socio-economic status of the nation's population.

This will facilitate future decision-making by the government and all partners to improve quality and access to nutritious food to support breastfeeding, especially during the critical period of the initial 1,000 d ays of life, she said.

The report also suggests developing strategies to improve nutrient intake including exploring food fortification options and engaging in social behaviour change communication.

Over the next five years, WFP is set to continue to support the Ministry of Health in addressing the challenges that the most vulnerable children and their families face in the effort to address the issue of severe acute malnutrition.

By Phetphoxay Sengpaseuth
(Latest Update September 15, 2017)

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