October 29, 2014

Public-Private Child Nutrition Partnership Develops Lao ‘Superkids’

UNICEF Laos, 10 June 2014

Public and private sector partners united in Savannakhet Province in the Lao PDR today to kick-start the ‘1000 Day Project.’ This important initiative targets child nutrition in three provinces (Savannakhet, Saravan, and Attapeu) and sets the stage for further expansion across Lao PDR.

Poor nutrition causes over one-third of child deaths globally. Chronic malnutrition affects more than 40 per cent of Lao children under five years old. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critically important in preventing nutrition related diseases.

The Lao Ministry of Health, MMG Limited, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Lao Women’s Union (LWU), and Population Services International (PSI) have joined forces with community volunteers to distribute millions of micro-nutrient sachets to Lao mothers. The University of British Columbia conducted research to successfully deploy the project.

“The development of our country depends on giving children a healthy start in the early stages of life,” said Dr Inlavanh Keobounphanh, Vice Minister of Health. “This initiative is absolutely critical in helping the Lao PDR meet Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for childhood survival and nutrition. It will bring better health and other opportunities to Lao children and future generations.”

The micro-nutrient sachets - branded ‘Superkid’ - contain essential vitamins, iron, and zinc. When mixed with a daily meal, they will fortify a child’s diet to prevent malnutrition, anaemia, and similar illnesses. They will be distributed for a year at no cost to families with children under 2 years of age. Additional sachets will be subsidized and made available to families with children under 5 years old.

Public health professionals, community volunteers, and pharmacists will distribute 4 million nutrition supplements over the next 2 years, while promoting good feeding and hygiene practices with Lao mothers. The Lao Women’s Union and Ministry of Health will work closely with mothers and community volunteers to reach children in the critical age group between 6 to 59 months. UNICEF emphasizes that while fortifying food is a part of the solution, counselling parents on good hygiene, proper nutrition, and age-appropriate feeding practices is also extremely important.

MMG Limited, which operates the MMG LXML Sepon mine in Savannakhet Province, pledged US$1.38 million to the project. “Our belief – we mine for progress – is reinforced by our investment in communities,” said Troy Hey, Executive General Manager, Stakeholder Relations. “The 1000 Day Project demonstrates our strong commitment to sustainable development and improving lives.”

“Good nutrition can bring powerful benefits to communities. Children who are well nourished, especially in the first 1000 days of life, are more likely to be healthy and able to learn,” said Dr Viorica Berdaga, Acting Representative and Chief of Health and Nutrition, UNICEF Lao PDR. “By mobilizing development partners and working with vulnerable communities, we can change the lives of thousands of families.”

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