SuperFood for a thousand days – UNICEF helps fight malnutrition in Laos

ABC - Radio Australia

 

SuperFood for a thousand days – UNICEF helps fight malnutrition in Laos

Updated: 13 June 2014, 13:09 AEST

Humanitarian agency UNICEF, in partnership with global mining group MMG, is addressing children’s malnutrition in one of the region’s poorest countries.

The ‘1000 Day Project’ in Laos focuses on three provinces, distributing millions of sachets that contain micronutrients which can be mixed into children’s food.

The two-pronged exercise is aimed at babies and toddlers – the first thousand days of their lives.

Image: Laos ‘SuperKid’ nutrient sachets (Credit: Bree Fitzgerald, UNICEF)

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Viorica Berdaga, Chief of Health and Nutrition for UNICEF Laos

BERDAGA: The 1,000 Day Project is a corporate social responsibility programme of MMG Limited, where we were trying to identify jointly with the government of Laos PDR an appropriate solution for addressing very high level of malnutrition in young children in Laos.
It was about 44 percent of its children being stunted or too short for their age and they are also suffering from micro-nutrient deficiency or vitamin and mineral deficiencies because of inadequacy of their diet, they’re poor in vitamins and minerals and as many as 64 percent of children are under 2 years of age have anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies in Laos.
We identified home fortification, with multiple nutrient powder, which is a mineral and vitamin powder that can be added to child’s meal and which can satisfy the daily needs of children in vitamins and minerals. One gram of powder of vitamin and mineral powder contains 15 vitamins and minerals and they address the daily needs of young children in vitamins and minerals.
LAM: And this is a 2 year programme. What about the longer term, can the mothers afford supplements in a country that’s as poor as Laos?
BERDAGA: I wanted to say that this programme actually is using or testing two delivery channels, so one delivery channel is actually through public health system and it’s a free distribution of micronutrient powder through the health system in Laos PDR.
These free distributions target very young children, from 6 to 23 months old and currently, it’s being tested in only three provinces as you main know and the other channel is actually social marketing and use of private sector to sell the micronutrient powders to those who can afford. It’s quite an affordable intervention. So just to say that we are looking at two different models, free distribution and market-based distribution and over the one-year-and-a-half period, we will be learning, together with our partners in the Ministry with Population Services International, with other private sector partners adjusting the models, accessing the course, the capacity to expand it to other provinces in Laos.
LAM: But where the market-based approach is concerned, would the supplements be subsidised in any way?
BERDAGA: For now, the sachets are being sold at their current price. Child care givers of families are willing to pay even more than the current price of the sachets. It’s like three cents a sachet. But for those who cannot afford that, there will be a free distribution.
LAM: So did UNICEF choose Laos as a country to be in partnership with the MMG Group, because the group has a commercial presence there?
BERDAGA: Yes, that’s right. Laos government, they have identified mining as one of their major economic development activities. So from UNICEF side, we were looking for partners that are interested in the longer term development of the country and also working with those partners to support and address development issues that affect children.
In fact, the partnership with MMG also helped educate mothers, families and care givers on how to appropriately feed and care for their young children.
Because in terms of sustainability of solution to address malnutrition in Laos PDR just giving micronutrient powder is not a longer term sustainable solution for the country, but it just immediate medium term measure to help children grow and develop to their full potential.
So we are also trying to work on their dietary practices and on hygiene and sanitation practices, because this has often an important role and contributes to very high level of malnutrition in Laos.
But MMG works in many other areas in Laos PDR with other partners and helps communities, especially communities around its mine, to implement a number of projects in different areas, livelihoods and water sanitation, infrastructure.
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UNICEF, MMG partnership aims to improve child nutrition in Laos

First posted: Fri 13, Jun 2014, 11:14am AEST

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-13/laos-project-to-improve-children-nutrition/5521182

Photo: The 1,000 Day Project aims to improve nutrition in a crucial phase of childhood development. (UNICEF: Bree Fitzgerald)

woA partnership between the UN Children’s Fund and global mining group MMG is aiming to address malnutrition in Laos, one of the region’s poorest countries.

Malnutrition contributes to over one-third of child deaths globally and affects more than 40 per cent of Lao children under five years old, according to experts at UNICEF.

The ‘1000 Day Project’ focuses on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, a crucial phase of childhood development.

The program will distribute four million micronutrient sachets – branded Superkid – containing essential nutrients to over 180,000 families.

The sachets can be mixed into children’s food to prevent malnutrition, anaemia and similar illnesses.

The Lao Women’s Union and Ministry of Health will work closely with community volunteers to distribute the sachets in Savannakhet, Saravane, and Attapeu provinces.

Viorica Berdaga, UNICEF’s chief of health and nutrition in Laos, told Asia Pacific the micronutrient sachets can satisfy the daily needs of children.

“As many as 64 per cent of children under two years of age have anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies in Laos,” she said.

“One gram of powder contains 15 vitamins and minerals and they address the daily needs of young children in vitamins and minerals.”

Dr Berdaga says the two-year program is an “affordable intervention” to help fight malnutrition in Laos.

“This free distribution targets very young children – from six to 23 months old – and currently, it’s being tested in only three provinces,” she said.

“We are looking at two different models: Free distribution and market-based distribution.

“We will be learning, together with our partners in the Ministry with Population Services International, with other private sector partners, adjusting the models, accessing the capacity to expand it to other provinces in Laos.”

MMG Limited, which operates the MMG LXML Sepon mine in Savannakhet, has pledged $1.5 million to support the project.

“Our belief – we mine for progress – is reinforced by our investment in communities,” MMG executive general manager Troy Hey said in a statement.

In the first year, the micronutrient sachets will be distributed for free to families with children under two years of age, MMG said.

The company says additional sachets will be subsidised for families with children under five years of age.

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