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MMG and UNICEF partner with the Lao Government against malnutrition


A mother in Saravane province supplements her child’s food with micro-nutrient powder to prevent anemia and other common illnesses associated with under-nutrition in Laos.  © UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani

Vientiane, 15 November 2012 - UNICEF and MMG announced a partnership today to support the Ministry of Health in its drive to improve the nutrition of Lao children in three provinces.

MMG Limited, which operates the Sepon Mine in Savannakhet province, has pledged US$ 1.38 million over a three-year period to an initiative that will distribute approximately 4 million micronutrient sachets which contain important vitamins, iron, zinc and other nutrients.

The project will be implemented in Saravane, Phongsaly and Savannakhet provinces, including communities around the Sepon Mine, and will aim to reach an estimated 180,000 children aged 6 – 59 months, thorough an innovative, two-prong approach involving health services and the private sector.

“This is a highly important project that will target some of the provinces with the highest rates of anemia and other nutrition problems,” said Dr Inlavanh Keobounphanh, Deputy Minister of Health. “We know the damage that a lack of proper nutrients can cause to a young child’s health and that this damage is irreversible later in life. Undernourished children will never develop as fully, either physically or cognitively, as when properly nourished early in life.”

Nutrition experts have determined that just one sachet of micronutrients added to a child’s meal each day will have a significant impact in improving their health and development. The project is aiming to identify sustainable and effective mechanisms for ensuring the delivery and use of the micronutrient sachets. The sachets will be distributed via health services to families with children under 2 years old at no cost. The private sector will also employ a social marketing strategy to promote and sell the sachets at a subsidized cost to families with children under 5 years old. Population Services International will provide technical support to the private sector.

In addition UNICEF will provide technical support to help health workers and community volunteers to educate families about the importance of good nutrition practices ensuring long term sustainable change.

“Through our support of UNICEF/IZA's ‘Zinc Saves Kids’ initiative, we've seen the difference zinc and other micronutrient supplements can make to early childhood development," said MMG CEO Andrew Michelmore. “With the support of the Lao Ministry of Health and UNICEF, we are extending these benefits to Lao children.”
In Laos, the major immediate causes of malnutrition are low calorific intake and micro-nutrient deficiencies. Meeting the nutritional needs of children in the earliest years of life is a particular challenge, with rates of chronic malnutrition affecting more than 40 per cent of Lao children under five years old.  Micronutrient deficiencies are persistent and widespread among infants and young children, largely due to the poor quality of complementary food, which is mostly rice-based.

Experts at UNICEF highlight that under-nutrition contributes to more than one-third of child deaths globally and that the issues are most effective when addressed by focusing on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.

“We know how crucial nutrition is in those first 1,000 days of life and by delivering proven nutrition interventions during this time, we can ensure children have the best chance to grow and develop,” said Tim Schaffter, UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR. “This programme will be an important boost to broadening evidence-based nutrition interventions already adopted by the Government, complemented by innovative approaches that aim to reach more remote areas where the needs are greatest.”

The new partnership was facilitated in part by the UNICEF Australia National Committee and MMG headquarters management team in Australia.

For more information, please contact:
Marc VERGARA, Chief of Communication, United Nations Children’s Fund
 Tel: + 856 21 315 200 - 05 ext 129 Mobile: + 856 20 5551 9681 mvergara@unicef.org

Dr Uma PALANIAPPAN, Nutrition Specialist, United Nations Children’s Fund
Tel: + 856 21 315 200 - 05 ext 211 Mobile: + 856 20 9759 4965 upalaniappan@unicef.org

Tom MORGAN, Communications Adviser, MMG
Tel: +856 21 268 406 Mobile: +856 20 2221 3704  tom.morgan@mmg.com

UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

The MMG – UNICEF Partnership
MMG and UNICEF partnered from late 2011 to raise funds, awareness and provide on-the-ground programs to target zinc and other micronutrient deficiencies internationally. Through a matched giving campaign via the UNICEF website, the partnership aims to distribute the benefits of zinc and other micronutrients to prevent the deaths associated with chronic diarrhea and the life-long impacts of micronutrient deficiencies in early childhood development.

To encourage others to contribute to expanding the reach of micronutrient supplements world-wide, MMG have launched a year-round matched giving campaign through UNICEF’s Inspired Gifts web site. For more information please visit <www.unicef.org.au/mmg>

 

 
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