Funding from France beefs up efforts to improve nutrition in Saravan

A woman and her daughter take part in nutrition activities. - VT

VIENTIANE: The government of France has provided support to the Lao government’s efforts to ensure independent and resilient access to food for 10,000 people in Saravan province, in an intervention implemented by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The project, costing US$550,000, is led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Health, and builds on earlier nutrition activities in cooperation with France and WFP in southern Laos.

A total of 1,818 families in Saravan province will receive small cash grants to meet their immediate food needs and invest in livelihood-enhancing activities such as home gardens and livestock rearing.

District agriculture and forestry extension offices will provide advice on planting and animal raising practices to families.

Participants will be informed about best nutrition practices and how to prepare and adapt to climate-related events and other shocks.

The project will focus primarily on vulnerable women and girls, and children under the age of five, in communities selected based on high poverty levels, low food consumption scores, low literacy rates, and the number of extreme weather events, amongst other factors.

Nearly 43 per cent of children under five in Saravan province are stunted. This means that children are not able to achieve their full physical and cognitive potential, with life-long consequences for their productivity and health.

The weight-for-height (wasting) rate for children in the same age group is also above the national average, at 12.5 per cent.

This is compounded by climate-related flooding and drought, which is further impacting the most vulnerable people in the province.

In addition, people in the poorest areas of the province are struggling with high living costs as a result of macroeconomic problems affecting the whole country.

Director General of the Planning and Cooperation Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Thatsaka Saphangthong, said the support from France and WFP is aligned to the government’s objectives and contributes to the fulfilment of food security and nutrition objectives enshrined in the 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan.

“It builds on earlier interventions in collaboration with WFP in our own, the agriculture and forestry sector, and as such also works towards overarching rural development and poverty reduction targets,” he said.

The Ambassador of France to Laos, Siv-Leng Chhuor, said that since 2019, France has been deploying a food aid programme in response to the needs expressed by Lao authorities. A new project in 2023 targets rural communities in the south of the country, complementing the support announced earlier this year for Xekong province.

WFP Representative and Country Director, Marc-André Prost, said the current economic hardship threatens to erode the impressive gains that Laos has made in the past two decades regarding food security and nutrition.

Therefore, investments such as this one from France are needed to safeguard families from the full impact of financial challenges, and to build their long-term resilience, he added. - Vientiane Times/ANN

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Laos , Saravan , France , nutrition


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