Nutrition Forum Highlights Vital Role of Health in Laos’ Development

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Children eat lunch at a school in Laos. (Photo/Phoonsab Thevongsa)

Collaborating to address malnutrition challenges, the Lao government partnered with external organizations such as UNICEF for the 9th National Nutrition Forum and Annual National Nutrition Committee Meeting 2023. The forum served as a platform to evaluate progress and strategies for combating malnutrition within the country.

Held under the theme “Nutrition for Human Capital Development,” the meeting aims to align with the Lao government’s socio-economic development agenda as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister of Laos emphasized the significance of nutrition, citing its critical role in the overall health, growth, and development of the nation as it nears key milestones such as the 2025 Socio-Economic Development Plan and the 2030 SDG targets.

Central to the discussions was the Lao Social Indicator Survey III (LSIS III), conducted in 2023 to assess the post-COVID-19 well-being of the Lao population.

The report revealed alarming statistics of malnutrition, especially among children aged 6–23 months. Only 23.3 percent of breastfed children and 32.9 percent of non-breastfed children within this age range met the minimum acceptable diet criteria.

The survey also highlighted that 30 percent of Lao children suffer from moderate to severe underweight conditions, while 43.6 percent of children under five experience stunting, indicating chronic or recurrent malnutrition, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). These figures represent an alarming increase compared to data from 2022.

“We need more collective action on nutrition. Insights from national nutrition information platforms and assessments highlight this need. Moving forward, enhancing policy recommendations and ensuring alignment with nutrition trends across Laos is essential,” said Ina Marciulionyte, the European Union Ambassador to Laos.

Despite the ongoing challenges, the Lao government has set out future priorities, commitments and actions for 2024, along with the signing of a commitment pledge.

The 9th Annual Nutrition Forum, spearheaded by the Government of Laos, received financial support from various entities including the European Union, the United States Government, UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Food Program (WFP), and SUN CSA Laos.

“In a world where the health and wellbeing of our communities are more interconnected than ever, it’s imperative to view nutrition not just as a health issue but as a cornerstone of socio-economic development and human capital investment,” said Pia Rebello Britto, Representative to UNICEF Laos.