VIENTIANE – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United States Embassy in Vientiane have jointly visited Luangnamtha province to see innovative programmes that reflect their on-going commitment to helping the Lao PDR Government in its efforts to combat malnutrition.
During the three-day trip, WFP Country Director and Representative Eri Kudo and US Ambassador Karen B. Stewart visited areas where nutrition programmes focusing on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life –the period when a well-balanced and complete diet is most essential to healthy development – are being implemented.
“Preventing malnutrition in Laos today will boost the progress this country can make tomorrow”, says Kudo. “Unless mothers and children get enough of the right foods, the children will not develop to their full potential. We are working to support the Government in creating the nutritional foundation for the future of Laos.”
Since June 2011, a Mother and Child Health and Nutrition programme, implemented jointly by WFP and the Ministry of Health and other UN agencies, is ensuring mothers and their young children receive enough of the right food to help the kids grow up strong and healthy.
The visit included a day of discussion with mothers and pregnant women in a health centre in Ban Mokchong, Nalae District where the women receive WFP’s food assistance as an incentive for them to attend health check-ups before and after the birth of their children. The mothers also receive specialised nutrition products for their babies from the age of six to 23 months.
On the final day, the group visited Ban Sop Ee, Sing District, to see nutrition education activities that are part of WFP’s Feeding the Future, an innovative nutrition training programme to educate women and other caregivers of small children about healthy diet. Through culturally-adapted education materials, nutrition games and cooking sessions, villagers learn how to use the food available in their environment to prevent malnutrition for themselves and their children.
WFP’s strategy for Lao PDR (2011-2015) aims to reduce malnutrition and its debilitating impact on human potential and national development, in line with the Lao National Nutrition Strategy and Plan for Action, and supports the government towards achieving the goals of its 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan.
The US Government, through its Department of Agriculture (USDA), has pledged US$10 million for school meal programmes targeting children in primary schools. The US Embassy in Lao PDR is currently exploring ways to scale up activities designed to reduce malnutrition among children under five.