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BRIEF October 25, 2022

Multi-Sector Convergence Approach to Reducing Malnutrition in Lao PDR

Lao farmers learn to milk goats as part of efforts to improve nutrition

Goat's milk can make a significant contribution to healthy diets in areas of Laos where nutrition rates are low. 

Susie Martin / Lao Buffalo Dairy

Chronic undernutrition (stunting) levels remain high in the Lao PDR, with about 33% of children under five years stunted, 21% percent underweight, and 9% wasted. Undernutrition mostly affects the poor, ethnic minorities, and rural and upland areas.

Stunting can cause long-term damage that lasts far beyond childhood, including slower learning ability, poor academic performance, and lower productivity and wages in adulthood. Stunted children cannot develop to their full potential, and this has negative consequences for national labor market productivity and economic growth. In Laos, the persistence of high levels of childhood undernutrition presents a huge, yet avoidable, loss of human and economic potential.

Action is needed across various sectors to address this. The World Bank is working with the Lao government and development partners to help ensure nutrition and food security through social assistance and livelihood options, improve childcare practices and access to health services, and to provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. This is known as the “convergence approach”, and has been shown to improve child health and development rapidly in various countries.

The target area covers 882 villages across 12 districts of the 4 northern provinces where stunting levels are highest: Xieng Khouang, Houaphan, Phongsaly, and Oudomxay. Activities are carried out under five main World Bank projects:

Graphic giving the project values in US dollars by sector under the World Bank nutrition convergence program in Laos.

Early Results

  • Six rounds of conditional cash transfers completed for the poorest households
  • Regular growth monitoring for 47,000 children under 5 years
  • Immunization rates increased from 34% to 78% percent in three years
  • Almost 80% of pregnant women have attended four ante-natal care sessions
  • Over 80% of infants being exclusively breastfed
  • 514 villages declared open-defecation free
  • Farmer nutrition groups providing simple, practical, and productive nutrition advice to over 9,000 households
  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene activities underway in over 100 villages
  • Children aged 3-5, in 376 target villages, enrolled in early education programs increased from 12% to 63%