Joint EU-UNICEF Visit to Houaphanh to Observe Nutrition Interventions

25 March 2021
Women with children
UNICEF Laos/2021/SSiriphongphanh

Vientiane, 23 March 2021 – The European Union Ambassador to the Lao PDR, H.E. Ina Marčiulionytė, and UNICEF Representative, Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, concluded today a joint visit to Houaphanh Province – Xam Neua and Viengxay districts with the aim of observing nutrition interventions under the Partnership for Improved Nutrition (PIN).

During this visit, the EU and UNICEF representatives had the opportunity to meet with the Vice Governor of Houaphanh Province, H.E. Mr Phonesouk Inthavong and department directors to discuss provincial plans to address malnutrition.

In Houaphanh, the rate of chronic malnutrition, stunting, among children under five years of age is higher than the national mean of 33 per cent according to the Lao Social Indicator Survey (LSIS-II) and stands at 41 per cent. While progress in recent years in reducing the levels of stunting has been impressive, with a reduction of approximately 20 per cent between 2011 and 2017, rates remain very high with dire impact on the short and long term outcomes for children. Further, the rates of acute malnutrition, wasting, among children under five years of age significantly increased in Houaphanh province from 2 per cent in 2011 to 16 per cent in 2017. About two out of five children and women of reproductive age suffer from anemia. 

“Under the PIN umbrella initiative, the EU in partnership with UNICEF, the Government and civil society and others, is supporting the scale up of nutrition interventions focusing on multisectoral coordination, programme implementation, evidence generation, awareness raising and institutional capacity enhancement. This visit to Houaphanh province has enabled us to witness first-hand some of the activities currently being implemented under PIN in the province to improve the nutritional status of women and children and provided us with the opportunity to assess what can be done to further improve the nutritional situation in the country,” said Ms. Marčiulionytė.

In Xam Neua district, the delegation visited Hoaugkho village to observe activities implemented in the village under the “Sustainable Change Achieved through Linking Improved Nutrition and Governance” (SCALING) project, which aims to improve the nutritional status of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and children under five years of age in 14 districts in the provinces of Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha, Phongsaly and Houaphanh in northern Lao PDR. The project is implemented by Save the Children, in consortium with CARE, Comité de Coopération avec le Laos and ChildFund with funding from the EU through PIN.

In Viengxay district, the delegation visited Nathan village to observe the delivery of essential health and nutrition interventions with financial support of UNICEF and the EU. These interventions include antenatal and post-natal care, growth monitoring, immunizations, vitamin A supplementation and deworming for children between 6-59 months of age, screening children under 5 years of age for acute malnutrition as well as health and nutrition education, and are provided through integrated health outreach - a Government-led service delivery strategies to facilitate access to health and nutrition services for people from villages that have no health center. The delegation visited as well Viengxay district hospital which has received support for capacity building and essential nutrition supply from the EU and UNICEF under the Partnership for Improved Nutrition for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition.

“Proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days influences a child’s ability to grow, learn and succeed. The Partnership for Improved Nutrition, is helping to take advantage of this window of opportunity and has contributed to achieve important results in line with the eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan,” stated Dr. Britto. “It is uplifting to see that Houaphanh province has made great strides in combating the rates of stunting among children in the past few years. However, there is still much more that we can still do to ensure that children in Houaphanh receive the nutritious diets, services and care that is so critical to their growth and their ability to realise their potential,” she added.

The Partnership for Improved Nutrition (PIN) is a wider EU initiative under which several partnerships are formed. The PIN partnership with UNICEF started in July 2016 with a total budget of 14,750,000 Euro, with 12,500,000 Euro contributed by the European Union and 2,250,000 Euro contributed by UNICEF. The project has a nationwide coverage and targets 10 provinces of Lao PDR, including Phongsaly, Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha, Houaphanh, Bokeo, Xiengkhouang, Khammuane, Savannakhet, Saravane and Attapeu.

The goal of this 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 Lao PDR. 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 the Eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020 of Lao PDR.

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