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EU-UNICEF delegation takes stock of nutrition interventions in Phongsaly

Delegations from the EU and UNICEF jointly observed the progress of efforts to improve nutrition in local communities during a four-day visit to Phongsaly province this week.
The delegation, led by the European Union Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Leo Faber and UNICEF Representative, Octavian Bivol, began their visit to Bounneua and Nhot-ou districts on Monday, with the aim of observing nutrition interventions under the Partnership for Improved Nutrition.
In Huay-yeuang village in Bounneua district and Savang village in Nhot-ou district, the delegation participated in two integrated health outreach activities, which are government-led service delivery strategies to facilitate access to health and nutrition services for people from villages that have no health centre.
The services provided during the integrated outreach sessions include hygiene promotion, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition interventions, such as antenatal and post-natal care, infant and child growth monitoring, immunisation, vitamin A supplementation, deworming for children between 6 and 59 months of age, screening children under five years of age for acute malnutrition using Mid-Upper Arm Circumference and health and nutrition education.

Partners also visited the Northern Uplands Food Security project in Huaypae Neua village, implemented by Care International and in partnership with Comite de Cooperation avec le Laos (CCL) with EU support. This project aims to improve the food and nutrition security of ethnic women and their families by addressing the underlying causes of malnutrition and equipping communities with the tools to take sustainable action.
“The EU, UNICEF and the Lao government are scaling up nutrition interventions through the Partnership for Improved Nutrition, focusing on multisectoral coordination, programme implementation, evidence generation, awareness raising and institutional capacity enhancement. This visit is critical as it will help us to see first-hand some of the activities implemented to improve the nutritional status of women and children in this province and understand what else can be done,” Mr Faber said.
“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 the mining company 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 Phongsaly but there is still a long way to go to ensure that every child in the province survives and thrives,” Mr Bivol said.
During the visit, the EU and UNICEF representatives met the Vice Governor of Phongsaly province, Mr Thongsy Saosouliphom, and department directors to discuss provincial plans to address malnutrition.
More than half of the children under five are stunted in Phongsaly province - well above the national average. This worrisome rate is the highest among all 18 provinces in Laos. According to the Lao Social Indicator Survey (LSIS-II), the proportion of stunted children below age five decreased by 11 percentage points and the underweight rate dropped by 6 percentage points between 2011 and 2017.
The Partnership for Improved Nutrition project started in July 2016 and the duration is 60 months until June 2021. The total budget is 11,250,000 Euro, with 9,000,000 Euro contributed by the European Union and 2,250,000 Euro contributed by UNICEF. The project covers 10 provinces in Laos -Phongsaly, Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha, Huaphan, Bokeo, Xieng Khuang, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Saravan and Attapeu.
The goal of the 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 Laos. 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 Laos’ Eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2016-2020.

By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update April 12, 2019)

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