Ensuring the survival and health of children and women
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Despite progress in recent years, Lao PDR still has the highest under-five child mortality rate in Southeast Asia, 46 per 1,000 live births, according to the Lao Social Indicator Survey (LSIS-II). This is due mainly to newborn complications, diarrhoea and pneumonia. Child mortality has a greater impact on children from poor and disadvantaged families.
Most child deaths are preventable or treatable with high-impact, low-cost health and nutrition interventions, such as immunization, and the integrated management of newborn and childhood illnesses. The impact on child health varies greatly depending on socio-economic group, ethnicity, geographical location and the educational level of the parents.
Immunization of both mothers and children is the most cost-effective, high-impact intervention for reducing mortality and morbidity.
Continuous care across life stages and from home to the health facility, with timely referral and follow-up, is crucial for child survival and development. Evidence shows that an effective continuum of care, which includes intervention packages from pre-pregnancy to delivery, immediate postpartum care and for children up to age 5, is essential to the well-being of this and the next generation.
The latest data for Lao PDR (LSIS) show that although more children are accessing high-impact health and nutrition interventions, still less than half of all children are being reached. Evidence also suggests that only about half of all children are fully vaccinated by the age of one.
Between 2007 and 2017, immunization coverage for the first dose of measles-containing vaccine increased from 40% to 82%, according to administrative routine immunization coverage data; and the three-dose DPT vaccine increased from 50% to 85%. But recent successes in immunization coverage are fragile, and the challenge is to not only reach but maintain national SDG targets.
The UNICEF Health and Nutrition programme works at national and sub-national levels to ensure that high-impact child survival interventions are reflected in national policies and budgets and reach all children and their families, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
In Lao PDR, UNICEF supports the Lao Government in ensuring that all children can access efficient, safe and sustainable immunization services. UNICEF supports the national objectives of maintaining polio free status, eliminating measles and maternal and neonatal tetanus.
UNICEF also supports the Ministry of Health of Lao PDR in strengthening health systems for the delivery of selected high-impact child survival and development interventions at community and facility levels, such as postnatal newborn care, early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding, immunization, provision of ORS/zinc for diarrhoea treatment, Vitamin A supplementation, and deworming of children under 5 years of age.
Lao PDR aims to achieve universal health services coverage by 2020, a goal set by the National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy, the seventh National Health Sector Development Plan (NHSDP) 2011-2015 and the Health Reforms Strategy and Plan of Action 2013-2020.