VIENTIANE, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Lao government is aiming to reduce the number of underweight children under the age of five to 21 percent and the proportion of stunted children in the same age group to 33.2 percent by the end of 2018.
Underweight children aged less than five years accounted for 27 percent of all children nationwide in the first six months of this year, the country's Minister of Planning and Investment Souphanh Keomixay was quoted by state-run media Vientiane Times as saying on Tuesday.
An earlier Lao Social Indicator Survey revealed that stunted children aged less than five years accounted for 38 percent of the total, he said here at a recent government meeting.
In the first six months of 2017, as many as 979 deaths were recorded among children aged less than one year and 1,106 deaths among children aged less than five years, he told the meeting.
The 2018 mortality rate target for infants under 12 months is set at 38 deaths per 1,000 live births, while the mortality rate for birthing mothers is set at 175 deaths per 100,000.
Meanwhile, the rate of clean water consumption nationwide reached 89.3 percent in 2017, which was 2.3 percent more than the target, but the rate of clean water consumption in southern Attapeu province was only 69.6 percent.
As many as 70.3 percent of the country had been declared free of open defecation, while the target was 72 percent. However, the figure for southern Salavan province was just 34.9 percent. Access to health insurance was 30.7 percent, lower than the target of 51 percent.
The target for clean water consumption for 2018 was set at 88 percent, while the government has decided to make at least 73 percent of the country free of open defecation next year.