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Lao PDR high level leaders focus on mother and child health

Government meeting celebrates World Health Day, reviews action needed and state of national immunization coverage

VIENTIANE, 6 April 2005 - Over 200 high level participants from central government and provinces gathered with donors and international agencies in Vientiane today to celebrate World Health Day on the theme: “Make every mother and child count”. The also examined the current state of immunization plus services in Lao PDR, whose goal is to protect the country’s children from seven deadly diseases through vaccination and Vitamin A supplementation. 

H.E. Mr Somsavath Lengsavad, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chairman of the National Commission for Mothers and Children opened the meeting which was also attended by the Assistant Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Michel Jancloes, who is on an official visit to the Lao PDR.

Dr Jancloes introduced the 2005 World Health Day message:  “Mothers, the newborn and children represent the well being of society and its potential for the future. Their health needs cannot be left unmet without harming the whole of society”.  WHO is calling on governments to give a higher priority to mother and child health and to replace fragmented services with a “continuum of care” from pregnancy through childbirth and on into childhood.

Presenting the current immunization situation in Lao PDR, H.E. Dr Ponmek Dalaloy, Minister of Health, noted that while the country made significant progress in reducing child deaths over the past 15 years, today we are observing an alarming decline in EPI coverage.  At present, only one child in two in Lao PDR is fully immunized by the age of two, but the figure may be as low as one in three. 

“The country may face serious risks if the decline in routine immunization coverage continues” said Dr Ponmek.  “Polio could return.  Child mortality may rise again and families will suffer”.  Noting that high level advocacy has always played a major role in increasing EPI coverage, the Minister of Health called for a nation-wide partnership and mobilization to provide immunization and vitamin A supplementation to 80% of children in Lao PDR by end of 2006.       

Olivia Yambi, UNICEF Representative in Lao PDR, highlighted the fact that one in ten children in the country dies before age five, and that Lao PDR can only reach the Millennium Development Goal Four on reducing child mortality if it accelerates basic health outreach services for women and children. She called on decision makers at all levels to play their role in improving immunization plus services, including parliamentarians, provincial and district authorities and the Lao Women’s Union.  “We need to create a culture of care around immunization plus, and overcome the barriers in information and communication which have contributed to the decline in coverage.”

Participants in the meeting are expected to adopt a statement of commitment defining the actions each sector will take to increase community demand for  immunization, in order to reach the target of 80% coverage.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Somchit Akkhavong, Ministry of Health. Mobile 020-5618040
Dr Craig Wilson, WHO Tel. 413431
Ruth Landy, UNICEF, Mobile 020 551 9681
Dr Dominique Robez-Masson, UNICEF, Mobile 020 552 1231




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