European Union and UNICEF supports media with latest data to tackle malnutrition among Lao children
5 September 2023 – Government officials from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICT), and Ministry of Health (MOH), alongside media representatives and health experts from across Lao PDR convened today in Vang Vieng to raise awareness about the ongoing issue of malnutrition among children and women in the country. The meeting was organised as part of the Mother Infant Young Child Nutrition Campaign (MIYCN), a joint initiative between the Government of Lao PDR, the European Union and UNICEF.
During the meeting, Mr. Somsavath Phongsa, Director General of the Mass Media Department of MICT, highlighted the role that mass media play in disseminating information about malnutrition and raising awareness about the importance of good diets, nutrition services and behaviour in addressing this issue in Lao PDR. “The dissemination of information to communities over time is vital in fostering understanding and changing attitudes and habits around food and health. It is important that the media continues to inform and educate communities on this topic,” said Mr. Somsavath Phongsa.
Post-pandemic economic challenges have been seen to be negatively impacting households who are trying to adjust through a number of coping mechanisms, some of which have a negative impact on key maternal, infant and young child nutrition practices. According to data from the national nutrition surveillance system led by MOH and UNICEF with support from the EU, optimal infant feeding practices have significantly dropped within a year. Proportion of children 6-23 months consuming a Minimum Acceptable Diet required to support the growth and development of young children declined from 21% in 2022 to 15% in 2023.
Thus, the meeting was aimed at arming media outlets with information to spark a nationwide effort to support the change in nutrition-related behavior. During the workshop, participants were briefed on the Annual Progress Report of the Implementation of the Nutrition Plan of Action and the National Nutrition Strategy for 2023 by the Nutrition Centre of MOH. Additional information packages were provided by the Center for Health Statistic and Information, along with discussions on the role of media in promoting child health.
Mr. Simon Nazer, Chief of Communications at UNICEF in Lao PDR, emphasised that the media “has the power to educate communities, shift perceptions and spur collective action. As we look ahead, the media will remain a critical ally in disseminating evidence-based strategies, helping us to intensify our efforts and make a meaningful difference in the nutritional well-being of children across Lao PDR."
Later this month the Lao Youth Media Team, under the Lao National Radio, will coordinate youth consultations on their eating habits across three provinces.
The media briefing also coincides with UNICEF’s 50th anniversary in Lao PDR. As part of the celebration, UNICEF will be commemorating its strong and long-standing partnership with the Lao Government in the past five decades through various events.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.