The fight against malnutrition in Lao PDR has taken a significant step forward with the roll out of a new nutrition training course to boost the number of professionals equipped with key knowledge and skills, and enable them to pass these on to their peers.
VIENTIANE –- Forty-nine men and women from provincial health departments and non-governmental organisations have recently completed the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Feeding the Future nutrition training of trainers.
“To help Lao PDR become a country free from undernutrition, raising awareness and sharing knowledge is essential”, said Paul Howe, WFP Lao PDR Deputy Country Director. “Working with our partners in the Lao Government and NGOs, we are able to reach more people in remote rural communities, where improvements in the area of nutrition are needed the most.”
The trainers are now fully qualified to empower villagers throughout Lao PDR to improve their diets by educating them about the dangers of malnutrition and how to prevent it. They are also equipped to monitor and evaluate progress, and to continue working with villagers in regular refresher trainings.
“I am very pleased that WFP builds the capacity of our health staff at district and provincial level in Oudomxay province, to become nutrition trainers”, said Mr Somchit Chanhsavanh, one of the training participants and technical expert from Oudomxay Provincial Health Department. “I think this nutrition training is the most valuable content that WFP has ever shared – the knowledge and experience provided during the training are easy to understand and the trainers are well prepared to share this experience with the communities.”
The Feeding the Future education programme takes a community-based approach. The goal is to teach women of child-bearing age and other care-givers in the family about good nutrition practices which are culturally acceptable. The training will reach more than 120 villages in 10 provinces throughout Laos.
In the village trainings women learn how to use locally available foods from forests, gardens and markets, to cook in a way that maximises nutrition and to make their diets more diverse. The trainings are tailored to different ethnic groups and delivered in their ethnic languages. The trainers use culturally specific, interactive and enjoyable training tools. Training messages are reinforced through cooking sessions, role playing, as well as a variety of games which drive home nutrition messages.
Feeding the Future is in line with the Lao Government’s National Nutrition Policy, Strategy and Plan of Action.
Chronic malnutrition is one of the biggest challenges in rural Lao PDR; in rural areas every second child below 5 years of age is not able to develop to their full potential. Chronic malnutrition affects the physical and cognitive development of children. Poor cognitive capacity hampers learning ability, which in turn impacts household income earning potential, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty and undernutrition. Improving nutritional knowledge and diets is therefore central to accelerating future development in Lao PDR.