Lao PDR

AHAN Project - Newsletter #3

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After 16 months of implementation, the AHAN Project experienced its Mid-Term Review (MTR) in July and August 2020. This review, as part of the project design, was conducted to assess the project’s progress against goals, objectives, and outcomes since the baseline. Using the Lot Quality Assurance Sampling (LQAS), a simple low cost random sampling methodology, the MTR was rolled-out in 5 out of the 12 districts covered by AHAN. Among the key findings and recommendations, there is still a need for a much concerted effort to work on a convergence approach among all nutrition actors.

While the MTR was reaching its conclusion, the AHAN Partnership disseminated the key findings of the three main researches conducted by the project to highlight the importance of a multi-sectoral approach to improve nutrition in Lao PDR. As a top priority until the end of the project, AHAN has already started to create linkages between counterparts in agriculture, health, WASH and gender sectors.

It is now becoming more and more effective at the community level with the developing connections between the project’s activities: the Mother Groups participants using home garden produce, small animal and insects raised with AHAN agricultural inputs to organize cooking demonstration, the Saving Groups members using savings and earned interest to build latrines and improve their sanitation practices The provision of nutrition-sensitive agriculture and hygiene messages during the Mother Groups’ sessions, gender-sensitive financial literacy training to establish gender-balanced decision making at the household level are some examples of this multi-sector integration the AHAN Project tries to promote.

As results of this integrated-approach are becoming more visible, Somsamai and Hom from Phalanxay district in Savannakhet Province are a good example. Two years ago, their daughter Bounthai was diagnosed malnourished during a monitoring visit by the outreach clinic. To address the situation of the household, both parents joined the AHAN Project activities. Thanks to training provided on home-gardening, they now have available nutritious food to eat all-year round. Hom is participating in the Mothers Nutrition Group in her village. She now understands the importance of good nutrition for her kids, and is able to cook balanced diets from her garden. The successful production of the garden allowed the family to sell up to 360.000 KIP (app. 38USD) worth of vegetables last year.

The money was placed into the Saving Group established by AHAN, reinvested into the construction of a latrine for their family and to buy more food for their children. Witness of the life transformation his family experienced, Somsamai is now an advocate of change in his community, promoting good hygiene practices, as a member of the Village Water and Sanitation Management Committee (VWSMC). He also encourages his neighbors to build their latrine to stop open defecation to improve the health status of his village. As a result of these combined new activities introduced in her village, little Bounthai is no longer malnourished, she is healthy and thriving.

One of the main additional catalyzers of this integrated approach for improved nutrition is the roll-out of the Community-Change (C-Change) model in the villages. Based on the results of the researches conducted by AHAN, the C-Change activity aims to allow the communities to generate dialogue to explore in depth their underlying beliefs, norms and traditional practices that either challenge or support the improvement of child well-being. This inclusive approach facilitated by the community themselves empowers the members to come up with their own solutions and plans for social change. AHAN is currently rolling-out the training of community facilitators and has been witnessing promising behaviors among the participants from various sectors (health departments, agriculture and forestry offices, Lao Women’s Union), realizing that it takes all of us to tackle malnutrition in Lao PDR.