VIENTIANE, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Despite significant progress made over past decades, Laos still has some of the highest rates of malnutrition seen in southeastern Asia, local daily Vientiane Times on Friday quoted Lao Ministry of Health as saying.
More than one third or 35.6 percent of children under five in Laos suffer from chronic malnutrition, with lifelong negative effects on individual and community health, educational and socio-economic prospects, Lao Minister of Health and Chair of National Nutrition Committee Secretariat Bounkong Syhavong said at a consultation workshop on the Result of Nutrient in Gap-Analysis held in Lao capital Vientiane on Thursday.
The ministry is closely working with development partners to address this grave situation, the minister said, adding that in February 2017, the ministry launched the Nutrient Gap Analysis, which is now in its final stages of developing recommendations. A full report is expected to be launched in August 2017.
Speaking at the workshop, Country Director and Representative of World Food Program (WFP) Sarah Gordon--Gibson said WFP's commitment is to support Lao government to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2).
"SDG2 cannot be achieved without ending all forms of malnutrition. By ensuring that we develop context specific solutions and the nutrient gap analysis will help us work together towards this direction," she said.
During the meeting, the ministry and other development partners has discussed factors that influence the cost of a healthy and nutritious diet for the Lao people.
The nutrient gap analysis is a detailed review of nutrition, dietary intake, food security household food expenditure, and socio-economic status, according to a statement from the WFP.
It has been carried out to facilitate future decision making for the government to improve the quality and access to nutritious food, especially during the critical period of the initial 1,000 days of life, said the Lao state-run Vientiane Times.
The key findings show that the cost of providing a nutritious diet varies significantly across the country. The analysis outlined high availability of nutritious ingredients, while noting the strong link between stunting and affordability of staple dietary foods across different provinces.
The analysis also found that it costs more to meet nutritional requirements of adolescent girls, pregnant and breastfeeding women, the WFP said. The analysis revealed that cost of nutritious diet for a non-breastfed child aged 12-23 months is 52 percent higher compared to a breastfed child. Finally, it shows that improving diet diversity and quality, rather than quantity, would result in greater nutritional benefits.
The analysis will strengthen the evidence-based policy process, programming, and guide the design of a national social behavior change communication strategy. This will help Lao government and development partners to further address gaps in diet diversity and improve food and nutritional security across Laos, said the report.