ADDRESSING MALNUTRITION THROUGH MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH AND NUTRITION ACTIVITIES
Lao PDR is a Least Developed Country (LDC) ranked 133rd out of 182 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index.Despite Lao PDR’s economic improvement in recent years, about 85 percent of the country’s 5.6 million people in rural areas still face food insecurity, poverty and recurring natural disasters. As a result, the nutritional status of the population remains a serious concern, with no significant change in chronic malnutrition rates over the past decade.
The economy is largely subsistence based, with over 80 percent of the population living in rural areas. Agricultural practices are mostly subsistence-oriented, with low input farming systems, weak rural infrastructure, a lack of an educated and skilled work force, and poor access to extension services. Rice production remains low compared to neighbouring countries and local seasonal rice deficits occur each year.
According to the WFP’s Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA), it is estimated that approximately two thirds of the rural population are either food insecure or are at risk of becoming food insecure should a shock occur.Malnutrition rates in Lao PDR are among the highest in the region and contribute significantly to child morbidity. Nearly one out of two children under five are stunted and one out of three children under five under weight. The highest prevalence of chronic malnutrition (stunting) is found in the northern, southern and central highlands with chronic malnutrition among some ethnic groups averaging over 60 percent. One third of pregnant and lactating women are undernourished and at higher risk of delivering lowbirth weight infants