(KPL) The European Union (EU) Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Leo Faber, and UNICEF Representative, Octavian Bivol successfully completed a four-day visit to Phongsaly province to observe nutrition interventions under the Partnership for Improved Nutrition (PIN).
After arriving in Boun Neua district in the evening of April 8, 2019, the team met with Mr Thongsy Saosouliphom, Vice Governor of Phongsaly province, and Department Directors to explain the purpose of the visit and the priorities of the EU-UNICEF support under PIN to Phongsaly Province.
On April 9, 2019, the EU Ambassador to the Lao PDR and UNICEF Representative visited Ban Houay Yang village in Bounneua district where they participated in an integrated outreach to observe hygiene promotion, maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) and nutrition interventions, such as antenatal and post-natal care, infant and child growth monitoring, immunization, vitamin A supplementation for children 6- 59 months of age, deworming for children 12-59 months of age, screening children under 5 years of age for acute malnutrition using Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) and health and nutrition education and cooking demonstration. The local community, health staff, village health volunteers and members of the Lao Women’s Union (LWU) and villagers including women and children participated in the activities.
The EU, UNICEF and the Government are scaling up nutrition interventions through PIN focusing on multisectoral coordination, programme implementation, evidence generation, awareness raising and institutional capacity enhancement. Seeing first-hand the activities supported through PIN to improve the nutritional status of women and children in this province will help us understand what else can be done, through a convergent approach, in close collaboration with the Government and other Development Partners said Mr. Faber.
The integrated outreach strategy complements facility-based service delivery by taking these essential services to women and children living in remote and hard-to-reach areas and by improving the referral pathway between the community and fixed site services. Integrated health outreach is an activity supported under the EU-UNICEF Partnership for Improved Nutrition (PIN).
Thanks to the support of the EU and UNICEF through the Partnership for Improved Nutrition, the health status of rural communities in Boun Neua has improved over the last years. Women and children from hard-to-reach areas now have access to health and nutrition services, including immunization, and this has had a positive impact in reducing malnutrition, stated Mr. Saynouphap Souchanh, Vice Governor of Boun Neua.
The team also travelled to Houay penneua village in Ngot Ou district to see the EU supported SUPA project (Northern uplands Food Security project), managed by CCL (Comite de cooperation avec le Laos), which promotes sustainable livelihoods of communities through interventions such as establishing a steady income stream through growing tea and cardamom, health and hygiene promotion, natural gardening and cultivation of fish.
I am impressed by the impact of this project that is improving the life of the community. Although there are multiple challenges to be addressed due to the remoteness of this place, I can see that the project has brought many benefits in terms of improved livelihoods, said Mr. Faber, adding that the initiative has promoted a participatory approach where villagers participate in decision-making.
On 10 April 2019, the team visited Ban Savang, a rural mountainous village in Ngot Ou district and participated in another integrated health outreach. About hundred people from different ethnic groups including Akha, Hor and Kor participated in the activity.
The EU and UNICEF are working hand in hand with the Government to improve the access of people in remote areas of Phongsaly to health, nutrition, WASH and education. Health and nutrition indicators are below the national average in this province and this is why we are working with provincial authorities to ensure that no one is left behind. There is a need for bringing services closer to hard-to-reach communities, explained Octavian Bivol, UNICEF Representative.
Mr Bivol also stated that more efforts are needed to overcome language barriers and reach out to more ethnic groups in remote areas. I see the interest of mothers in improving the lives of their children, however they face challenges when they come to the outreach sessions as they speak different languages and although there are translators sometimes communication is difficult. We need behaviour change communication materials in local languages. But we are here to understand what works, what needs to be improved and will work with the Government and development partners to make sure every child survives and thrives, he said.
The ”Partnership for Improved Nutrition in Lao PDR – Pillars 1 and 2: Strengthening Nutrition Governance for Multisectoral Response and Scaling Up Nutrition Specific Actions” project started in July 2016 and the duration is 60 months until June 2021. The total budget is 11,250,000 Euro, with 9,000,000 Euro contributed by the European Union and 2,250,000 Euro contributed by UNICEF. The project covers 10 provinces of Lao PDR, including Phongsaly, Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha, Houaphan, Bokeo, Xiengkhouang, Khammuane, Savannakhet, Saravane and Attapeu.
This project is part of the EU Partnership for Improved Nutrition in Lao PDR with a total budget of EUR 50,000,000. The goal of this project is to strengthen the nutrition governance for multisectoral response, to scale up evidence-based and nutrition-specific sustainable interventions, and thus to improve the nutritional status of children and women in Lao PDR. This goal is in line with the National Nutrition Strategy 2016-2025, Sustainable Development Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture and the Eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020 of Lao PDR.
Source: Lao News Agency