Foreign Affairs

Gov’t, EU, UNICEF Join Forces Improving Nutrition Interventions In Savannakhet

(KPL) Despite the progress over the last years, Savannakhet Province has a high prevalence of stunting, underweight and wasting, which is a public health problem.

To improve the nutritional status of children, the government of the Lao PDR, the European Union (EU) and UNICEF are increasing their efforts under the Partnership for Improved Nutrition (PIN).

The high levels of child undernutrition in Savannakhet may be explained by a relatively low coverage of direct nutrition interventions, inadequate access to improved water and sanitation facilities and related practices, i.e. unsafe disposal of children’s faeces.

The exclusive breastfeeding rate is even lower than half of national mean. According to the Multiple Overlapping Deprivations Analysis (MODA) report, half of children under 5 years of age are exposed to inadequate nutrition and health conditions, which poses a threat to their cognitive and physical capacity for development.

Based on the 2011 (LSIS-I) to 2017 (LSIS-II), stunting rate had declined which is very positive.

However, to achieve improvements in the area of maternal and child nutrition, the province needs to expand the coverage and the quality of nutrition-specific interventions, while investing in improvements in the areas of water and sanitation as well as food security.

In Savannakhet, 28 per cent of children under five years of age are stunted (low height), slightly below the national average (33 per cent); and 10 per cent of children are wasted (low weight for height), while the national average stands at 9 per cent.

The EU, UNICEF and the Government are scaling up nutrition interventions through PIN focusing on multisectoral coordination, programme implementation, evidence generation, awareness raising and institutional capacity enhancement. We are constantly monitoring nutrition indicators in the different provinces to assess the situation and adjust the activities implemented to improve the nutritional status of women and children, said Mr. Leo Faber, EU Ambassador to the Lao PDR.

According to the Measuring Progress on Child Wellbeing in the Lao PDR report (MODA) Savannakhet is among the provinces with highest percentage of multidimensionally poor children in the Lao PDR. Compared to the national average of 50.4 per cent, 65.5 per cent of Savannakhet children are unable to fulfil at least 3 out of 7 dimensions of their essential rights and needs.

Multidimensional poverty is concentrated among children under 5 years of age, and in rural areas without roads. Proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days influences a child’s ability to grow, learn and succeed.

The Partnership for Improved Nutrition, an umbrella initiative funded by the EU and UNICEF with contributions in Savannakhet from other donors like MMG, is helping to take advantage of this window of opportunity and has contributed to achieve important results in line with the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan.

It is encouraging to see that stunting is improving in Savannakhet but there is still a long way to go to ensure that every child in the province survives and thrives, stated Dr. Octavian Bivol, UNICEF Representative.

The Partnership for Improved Nutrition (PIN) project started in July 2016 and the duration is 60 months until June 2021.

The total budget is Euro 11.2 million, with Euro 9 million contributed by the European Union and Euro 2.2 million contributed by UNICEF.

The project covers 10 provinces of the Lao PDR, including Phongsaly, Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha, Huaphan, Bokeo, Xieng Khuang, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Saravan and Attapeu.

The goal of this project is to strengthen the nutrition governance for multisectoral response, to scale up evidence-based and nutrition-specific sustainable interventions, and thus to improve the nutritional status of children and women in the country.

This goal is in line with the National Nutrition Strategy 2016-2025, Sustainable Development Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture and the Eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020 of the Lao PDR.

Source: Lao News Agency