Over the past years, nutrition has improved in Lao PDR, but there is still room for enhancement.
With 47% of stunted children under 5 years old, Attapeu, Saravane and Savannakhet provinces are widely above the national standards (33%), which can be seen as a public health issue according the World Health Organisation.
Despite the good progress made on the water supply coverage, only 41% of households have access to basic water facilities during the dry season in Attapeu, Saravane and Savannakhet provinces. 73% of households practice open defecation in these provinces because of the lack of latrines, and every day women spend 3 times longer on domestic work than their husband in these provinces. These have been the major findings revealed by AHAN baseline survey, conducted in December 2018 and confirming the relevance of the project intervention.
Based in the 3 southern provinces of Lao PDR, AHAN is a sustainable development project aiming to create supportive conditions to enhance household nutrition through 5 specific objectives: to improve the access to sufficient and diverse foods year-round, to improve dietary and are practices among women of reproductive age (15-45 years) and children under 5 years, to reduce the incidence of selected Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) related diseases/illness linked to undernutrition, to improve gender equitable relation at the household level, particularly in decision-making and distribution of workload and to strengthen multi-sector coordination and support for nutrition.
After gathering all the evidence described earlier through the conduction of a baseline survey, a NutritionSensitive Value-Chain Analysis (NSVCA), water system design surveys, Gender Analysis, Disability Analysis and market scoping study, and after the Memorandum of Understanding signature in May 2019, AHAN could start its operations.
But before the start of the activities at the community level, an important effort on training is needed. Thus, all AHAN staff, partners, authorities and village volunteers followed several trainings on the five components of the project: savings groups, home garden and small animal raising for the agriculture component; IMNCI, IYCF and Mothers groups for the Health, Village Water Sanitation Management Committees (VWSMC) and Community-Led Total Sanitation for the WASH part, Gender equality... All these trainings have been rolled out over the past months.
By the end of March 2020, the agriculture trainings (homegardening, small animal raising), saving groups, village rice-mill model, hygiene promotion events, water pump construction and women labour saving technologies distribution are the most advanced activities, conducted in a 9-month span, after official MoU signature (cf. page 4 Progress). In March, a first AHAN targeted village has been declared open defecation free in Toomlarn district, Saravane Province.
The second year of AHAN has also been unfortunately marked by a major flooding in early-September, affecting targeted villages of Saravane (Saravane district) and Savannakhet (Thapangthong and Xonnbuly districts) provinces. Utilising other funding sources, World Vision provided relief to the most affected targeted communities by delivering rice, drinkable water and food items to almost 3,000 households (2,976 HHs, 17,385 people) across the above 3 affected AHAN districts.
We are now halfway through the 3rd year of the project, activities are well underway and AHAN staff is strongly dedicated to reach its goal: to improve nutrition of Lao most vulnerable children and their families.