VIENTIANE, November 13, 2019 – Lao PDR will implement a new cross-cutting and evidence-based approach to tackle the issue of childhood undernutrition with support from the World Bank. Representatives from the Ministries of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and Ministry of Education and Sports officially launched the Reducing Rural Poverty and Malnutrition Project, and the Scaling-Up Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project.
These two projects complement operations in health, agriculture, and early childhood education, which together form the nutrition convergence portfolio, with the aim of reducing the prevalence of childhood undernutrition. The projects will be active in four northern provinces with high rates of undernutrition: Xieng Khouang, Houaphan, Phongsaly, and Oudomxay.
“Improving the nutrition of our children is key to our goals of investing in people and boosting human capital for a more inclusive pattern of economic growth,” said Dr. Kikeo Chanthaboury, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment, as the core project coordination of the convergence approach and co-chair of the event.
The convergence approach simultaneously engages multiple sectors to address both the immediate and underlying causes of childhood undernutrition. Evidence from international experience suggests that this multi-disciplinary strategy can successfully tackle chronic undernutrition. The initiative focuses on the first 1,000 days of life, which are the most critical for child development.
“A child born in Lao PDR today will be only half as productive as she could have been if she had complete education, good health and a well-nourished childhood.. It is important that all Lao citizens can reach their full potential, so they are prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future,” said Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR.
Undernutrition is a critical issue hampering Lao PDR’s development. Nationally, undernutrition affects over one third of all children under the age of five and the in the project target provinces these figures reaches up to 54 percent. Severe underourishment can hinder brain development, school performance, and eventual success finding employment, making it more likely for families to remain in poverty.
The World Bank currently finances 19 projects in Lao PDR. Investing in people is one of the key areas of the World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework for the period 2017-2021.