Wed, 02/08/2012 - 09:00
MoH, U.S. Embassy, and international bodies team up for anti-malnutrition
VIENTIANE,08.02.2012 (KPL)- The Ministry of Health, the U.S. Embassy, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP) have pledged to cooperate closely on efforts to address the problem of malnutrition in under-five children in Lao PDR during 2012. Dr. Somchit Akkhavong, Deputy Director General of the Department of Hygiene and Prevention at the Ministry of Health accompanied U.S. Ambassador to Laos Karen Stewart and UNICEF Representative in Laos Tim Schaffter to an integrated maternal/child health and nutrition clinic session in Ban Lak Hin, Sikhotabong District, Vientiane on Jan. 30 to observe local health workers in action and gain understanding about malnutrition problems. Malnutrition in Lao PDR is one of the biggest obstacles to development. Hunger and malnutrition increase both the incidence and the fatality rate of conditions that cause a majority of maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth. As the underlying cause of more than half of all child deaths, hunger and malnutrition are the greatest obstacles to reducing child mortality. Hungry children start school later, if at all, drop out sooner and learn less while they do attend, stalling progress towards universal primary and secondary education. It is clear that high levels of rural chronic malnutrition are perpetuating poverty and are likely to impede economic growth in the long term, making malnutrition one of the biggest stumbling blocks to Laos’ rise from Least Developed Nation status. Even in Ban Lak Hin, less than half an hour from downtown Vientiane, malnutrition is a serious problem. During the integrated maternal/child health and nutrition clinic session on Jan. 30, health workers at the clinic found that nine out of 34 children measured were “stunted” (a technical term meaning severely physically under-developed due to malnutrition). Currently, there are scores of intervention programmes targeting various facets of the malnutrition problem in different provinces of the country. The U.S. Embassy, which is expanding its support for school feeding programmes, is now pledging to help coordinate and synchronize these efforts to ensure the problem of malnutrition in children under 5 receives the attention and resources it deserves.