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PRESS RELEASEJune 11, 2024

Renewed Effort to Help Lao PDR Combat Poverty and Malnutrition

The Lao PDR today launched the second Reducing Rural Poverty and Malnutrition Project, bringing additional resources to improve nutrition and raise incomes in 25 of the country’s poorest districts, with support from the World Bank. The project is part of the second phase of the Nutrition Convergence program, which was also launched today to coordinate five World Bank-financed projects to accelerate the reduction of stunting in Laos.

The $37 million Reducing Rural Poverty and Malnutrition Project will focus on nutrition-improvement efforts that will benefit around 85,000 people. It expands the government’s Helping Hand conditional cash transfer program, which started in 2021 in 12 poor districts in Xieng Khuang, Huaphan, Phongsaly, and Oudomxay provinces, to an additional 13 districts in Savannakhet, Saravan, and Sekong. Cash is transferred to families in need who are listed on Laos’ first social registry, a database of socioeconomic information that will allow government programs to better target poor and vulnerable households.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has overall responsibility for coordinating rural poverty reduction programs in Laos and will manage the project, while the Ministry of Planning and Investment will lead coordination, monitoring and evaluation of Nutrition Convergence to support the National Plan of Action on Nutrition 2021-25.

Undernutrition in a child’s first thousand days affects physical and cognitive development for their whole lives, costing the Lao economy around $200 million per year, or 2.4% of GDP,” said World Bank Country Manager for the Lao PDR, Alex Kremer. “Cash transfers to families in need are a direct and effective way of alleviating poverty, improving diet, and encouraging improved health. This project will significantly increase the number of vulnerable people receiving assistance.”

In a World Bank survey in early 2024, 81% of households said they were affected by inflation, with over 60% reporting eating less food in response. As a result, malnutrition rates, already high in poorer areas of the country, are at risk of rising. In 2017, about 33% of Lao children under five were stunted (excessively short for their age), 21% were underweight, and 9% percent qualified as wasted — too thin for their height. Malnutrition particularly affects the poor, ethnic groups, and children in rural and upland areas.

In northern Laos, average stunting rates are close to 50% and are even higher among some ethnic groups, with no sign of improvement since 2017. The government has set a target of reducing stunting to a rate of 25% by 2025. Initial results show the first phase of the convergence program has been effective in mitigating the negative effects of COVID-19 on child nutrition, improving the diversity of children’s diets and boosting services such as growth monitoring. Stunting and wasting among children under two in target areas would have been 7.7 and 3.4 percentage points higher without the program.



Aiden Glendinning
+856 21 266278


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