Increase food fortification for women of childbearing, children in Laos

Over 40% of women of childbearing and children under 5 years of age suffer from iron deficiency anemia, and due to malnutrition, the World Food Programme reported at the Orientation Meeting for the National Food Fortification Technical Working Group in Vientiane on Jun 10.

The meeting was participated by Acting Director of National Nutrition Centre (NNC) Dr Phonesavanh Keonakhone, Representative of WFP to Laos Fumsitsugu Tosu, members of the Food Fortification Technical Working Group representing the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Rice is a staple food in the Lao PDR and plays an important role in the fight against malnutrition. Micronutrient malnutrition or malnutrition is common in the Lao PDR and is caused by a lack of certain essential vitamins and minerals. Malnutrition affects growth and development.

Since 2013, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been a key partner with the government in the field of vitamin and mineral supplementation.

Recently, WFP has been importing vitamin and mineral supplements from abroad to be used in the high-achieving school lunch programme, with 64,000 students from 707 schools across the country.

Despite progress made over the past couple of decades, malnutrition – in various forms – remains a challenge in the Lao PDR. Even during normal times, many households and communities have challenges to secure a diverse and nutritious diet.

With COVID-19 and now the food, fuel and inflation crisis that the country is facing, it’s even more difficult for households to afford a nutrient-rich diet.

Food fortification is yet another proven, cost-effective tool to enhance the nutritious value of food. Food fortification has been taken up in countries around the world starting as early as the 1920s.

In Asia, many countries including Laos eat rice as the main staple. Rice is not a great source of micronutrients but given the high consumption of rice, it is an effective vehicle for fortification.

Over the past decade, WFP has been working with governments and private sector actors in more than 12 countries in Asia to support rice fortification efforts, including in the Lao PDR.

“Today’s meeting is just one step in the process; we look forward to working with you over the coming months as we finalize the rice fortification standards and as we produce the first batch of locally fortified rice,” said Representative of WFP to Laos Fumsitsugu Tosu.

Source: Lao News Agency