Helping Lao Children to Grow Healthy with ‘Superkid’

Helping Lao Children to Grow Healthy with ‘Superkid’

UNICEF Laos
27 May 2019
Nina, age 2 is getting her growth monitored by health staff in an outreach programme
UNICEF Laos/2019/Labrador
Nina, age 2 is getting her growth monitored by health staff in an outreach programme in Dongbang Village, Savannakhet.

Two-year-old Nina steps onto the scale in a purple patterned dress and a blue sweater. She is a little nervous because the whole village has gathered at a local meeting place and some of the other children are crying. Nina is being measured and weighed by the district health staff in Dongbang village, Vilabouly District, Savannakhet to monitor her growth and development. This activity is one of the many essential healthcare services delivered by health outreach teams to women and children living in remote and hard-to-reach areas. 

Families living in these remote areas may not be able to reach the nearest health centre where the health of their children can be monitored, and they can receive essential services such as immunization, growth monitoring and micronutrient supplements. Outreach teams take these services to remote villages every 3 months where women receive family planning advice and contraceptives, pregnant women have ante-natal care checks, children are vaccinated, they have their weight and height measured and growth tracked, and mothers are shown how to prepare nutritious meals for their children using ‘SuperKid’ a supplemental micronutrient in powder (MNP) form that is added to the food.   

Volunteer's from the Lao Women's Union such as Khonghom
UNICEF Laos/2019/Labrador
Volunteer's from the Lao Women's Union such as Khonghom pictured above are essential for delivering services to families in remote villages.

Lao Women’s Union health volunteers are responsible for the cooking demonstration and presenting the health education sessions.  Today, the women are preparing a rice porridge with pumpkin, chicken, herbs and a bit of seasoning. Konghom a volunteer from the Lao Women’s Union, and former village chief, is leading the outreach activities for the day. She makes sure other volunteers talk to mothers about healthy eating and encourages mothers to participate in the cooking demonstration. Konghom received training on how to support outreach infant and young child feeding activities from the Provincial Health Department and District Health authorities and enjoys helping her community through the outreach programmes. “I have seen a lot of changes in the children of Dongbang,” Konghom says, “The children of the village are growing fast and are avoiding illnesses. Before I saw a lot more children who were not eating and suffering from diarrhea but that has changed now”.

Davanah, Nina’s mother, has been feeding Nina meals fortified with Superkid since she was 6 months old. The nutrition counseling Davanah received from healthcare workers and Lao Women’s Union volunteers helped her decide to vaccinate Nina and to follow the advice to give her only breastmilk for the first 6 months of her life and thereafter fed her a range of nutritious complementary foods and continued to breastfeed until she reached 2 years of age. Nina was fed a variety of foods including soup, fish, vegetables, and rice to which SuperKid was added.  “Nina has hardly ever been sick,” Davanah says proudly.

The provision of micronutrients is regarded globally as one of the most cost-effective interventions for child nutrition. The 1,000 Days Project supported by MMG via UNICEF Australia provides families with ‘Superkid’-branded micronutrients that when added to children’s meals, boost the vitamin and mineral content, which in turn helps prevent deficiencies. The SuperKid sachets are distributed to mothers or caregivers of children aged 6-23 months, during health outreach activities organized every quarter in ten provinces by the Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF and funds from the European Union and MMG.

Konghom, is teaching mothers about the benefits of Superkid.
UNICEF Laos/2019/Labrador
Konghom, is teaching mothers about the benefits of Superkid. Mothers with children ages between 6 months to 5 years will each receive a packet during the outreach.

Davanah has been attending the outreach sessions regularly. She is currently 6 months pregnant and thanks to the information she has received, she knows how to take good care of herself and give her baby the best start in life. She received antenatal care and education that helped Nina turn into the healthy 2-year-old she is today, and she is confident that if she follows the same advice and receives similar support, her new pregnancy will be safe and healthy.  Nina was delivered at the district hospital because the health workers in her village identified potential problems and Davanah had a difficult delivery. She started breastfeeding Nina 30 minutes after the delivery because she knew it was the best way to give her child essential nutrients. Davanah explains, “I will follow the same advice I received from the health workers for my second child by breastfeeding for the first six months and then introduce other foods with Superkid when my baby is a bit older.”

Volunteers help mothers to prepare the rice porridge
UNICEF Laos/2019/Labrador
Volunteers help mothers to prepare the rice porridge and show them how to add a variety of veggies, meat and other ingredients to make it a complete nourishing meal. They add in one packet of Superkid to every bowl, to ensure each child is getting an additional dose of nutrients to keep them healthy.

Like all mothers, Davanah wants the best for her children. Looking at Nina, she says one day she hopes Nina will become a health worker, and she has started to take the right steps to ensure her daughter thrives and develops to her full potential.   “My husband is a kindergarten teacher and we both read to her often and have also taught her how to sing. She can even say a few words in English.” Davanah tries to encourage her daughter to count to five, but she hides behind her mother’s back, peeks out and smiles.

Davanah feeds Nina a nutritious rice porridge fortified with Superkid, a micronutrient supplemental powder.
UNICEF Laos/2019/Labrador
Davanah feeds Nina a nutritious rice porridge fortified with Superkid, a micronutrient supplemental powder.