Partnership for improved nutrition in Lao PDR - Strengthening nutrition Governance for multi-sectoral response and scaling up nutrition-specific actions

Partnership for improved nutrition in Lao PDR - Strengthening nutrition Governance for multi-sectoral response and scaling up nutrition-specific actions

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 multiple sources, including the EU, UNICEF and 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.

Octavian Bivol, Representative, UNICEF Lao PDR.

CONTEXT

Data from 2015 shows an estimated 330 000 children under five (36%) are chronically malnourished in Lao PDR. Whilst there has been some progress towards a reduction in stunting prevalence, there remain disparities in rates across the 18 provinces. EU and UNICEF have been working together since 2011. First with the 'Maternal and Young Child Nutrition Security Initiative in Asia' (MYCNSIA). This project laid the foundations for a strong partnership at regional and country level, generating evidence that was used to inform the design of the Partnership for Improved Nutrition 2016-2021 (PIN).

OBJECTIVES

  • To contribute to improvements in nutritional status of Lao children and women
  • To strengthen nutrition governance
  • To bring at scale (at national level) nutrition specific interventions that have been piloted and proved successful at small scale. For instance, home fortification with Micro Nutrient Powder has proven to be successful at small scale and could be scaled up.

RESULTS

  • The National Nutrition Committee, which is a coordination mechanism for nutrition related issues including different stakeholders and sectors beyond nutrition (health and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, for instance) has been established.
  • Nutrition coordination mechanisms engaging different sectors and partners have been scaled up at sub-national level. 18 Provincial Nutrition Committees and at least 50 District Nutrition Committees have been established.
  • There is a functioning development partners network for nutrition; co-led by EU and UNICEF with over 50 active members.
  • Evidence generation for policy dialogue with the data of the Lao Social Indicator Survey 2017 (LSIS-II) analysed and key findings to be released shortly.
  • Progressive scale up of nutrition specific interventions has been achieved and the geographical coverage of infant and young child nutrition services by health sector has been increased.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • 3 000 Lao Women's Union health volunteers have acquired new skills to support mothers to breastfeed and to feed children appropriate complementary foods.
  • 645 530 children aged 6-59 months have received recommended doses of vitamin A.
  • 75 000 children aged 6-23 months have benefited from micro-nutrient powder
  • 325 000 pregnant and lactating women have benefited from Iron Folic Acid supplementation.
  • 46 Development partners are working together to improve nutrition in Lao PDR.
  • 18 Provincial Nutrition Committees have been set up.

TESTIMONY

Building the capacity of health workers is helping to promote positive behaviours and reduce malnutrition in Laos

Doctor Lamany Lorvanxay is the Head of Saleuy Health Center, in Sam Neua district, Huaphanh Province. Her team provides Maternal and Child Health Care, including immunization, and prevention and treatment of malnutrition. She is one of the 19 health workers from Sam Neua who were recently trained on Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices thanks to the 1 000 Days Project funded by MMG through UNICEF Australia, which is part of a larger umbrella initiative, the Partnership for Improved Nutrition (PIN), to which the European Union and UNICEF contribute substantially.

This training has allowed Lamany to better perform her daily duties, including carrying out interpersonal communication activities. "Working with ethnic minority groups is challenging because we speak different languages. Their education level is also an issue and this makes communication difficult. However, we have seen positive trends and I can say that these groups are more supportive now than before," she explains.

Reaching those in hard-to-reach areas is not always easy, but Lamany is driven by her desire to improve people's lives. "It is an honour for me to help others. I don’t want to see children suffering from malnutrition and I believe I can make a difference by promoting positive behaviours and providing counselling".