Laos and UNICEF launch nutrition supplement initiative for young children
© UNICEF Lao PDR/2009/Hando
A mother feeds food with sprinkles added to her child.
Sepone, Savannakhet province, Lao PDR 24 June 2009 - The powdery contents of a tiny silver sachet could be the solution to the high rates of anemia that currently afflict children in many parts of Lao PDR.
That at least is the intention behind a pilot scheme being undertaken by the Lao Government and UNICEF to promote the use of food supplements containing iron and other essential micronutrients beneficial to children’s health.
The sachets -- commonly known as ‘Sprinkles’ -- received their first public outing at a launch event at which senior government officials were joined by a number of mothers and young children.
The event took place in Sepone, one of four districts in the central province of Savannakhet selected for the pilot phase of the project because of the high rates of childhood anemia found there. By early 2010, the initiative aims to reach some 40,000 children.
Addressing the gathering, Dr Bounkouang Pitchit, Vice Minister of Health in Laos, acknowledged the seriousness of the anemia problem in developing countries like Laos, where studies show that more than 60 per cent of children aged 6 to 24 months are affected.
“The Lao government fully supports this pilot project because it is one of the best strategies to tackle the problem of anemia among young children,” Dr Bounkouang said.
Sprinkles have been promoted by UNICEF in a number of other countries, and have had a significant impact in reducing childhood anemia rates.
“The damaging effects of micronutrient deficiency are well-known,” said Laila Ismail-Khan, UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR. “It blunts a child’s intellect and undermines his or her prospects not just at school but in life as a whole.”
Key to the project’s success will be the contribution of health workers and staff of the Lao Women’s Union, and village volunteers whose task is to encourage mothers to add Sprinkles to the meals they give their young children.
To be most effective, the powder – which has no taste of its own – should be added to pre-cooked food as it cools. The recommended dosage is one sachet per child per day.
The Sprinkles initiative is a joint effort between the Ministry of Health, the National Institute of Public Health and the Lao Women’s Union. In a second phase of the project, the distribution will be expanded to another 17 districts in 8 provinces.
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