PHONSAVAN, XIENG KHOUANG, February 22, 2018 – Representatives from two provinces with high prevalence of malnutrition agreed on a comprehensive new approach to reduce stunting that will include targeting diversified food production and delivering better health-care, clean water and sanitation facilities, and social safety net programs.
“Stunting due to malnutrition is a critical issue for Lao PDR, as it affects far more than children’s height. Stunting can prevent proper brain development in children and have long-term impact on their abilities to learn, work, and reach their full potential. The implications for our country are enormous,” said Dr. Kikeo Chanthabouly, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment.
Lao PDR has recognized stunting as a critical development issue, as it affects 40% children under the age of five. Neighboring countries that once had comparative levels of malnutrition have significantly reduced rates of stunting in the last 20 years.
Organized by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the World Bank, today’s meeting brought together key representatives from the central government, Xieng Khouang, Houaphan, the World Bank, and the Ministry of Planning and Investment, to discuss the potential for a multi-sectoral approach targeting the first 1000 days of children’s lives—the most critical period for their development.
“Experience in reducing malnutrition in other countries around the globe has proven that success requires a coordinated multi-sector approach. The World Bank looks forward to supporting Lao PDR in undertaking this new approach, under their National Nutrition Strategy, to tackle an important challenge,” said Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR.
The new approach, which will be supported by the World Bank under several projects, is backed by strong evidence from other countries that have successfully addressed chronic malnutrition. To ensure that the multiple causes of malnutrition are addressed, the World Bank will adjust ongoing projects and design new ones to provide long-term support to the same households and villages in target districts. In addition to these two provinces, the program will also cover selected districts in Phongsaly and Oudomxay provinces.
The World Bank currently finances 18 projects in Lao PDR. Investing in people, including through reducing malnutrition and improving access to health services as well its quality, is one of the key areas of the World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework 2017-2021.