The Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has set ambitious targets of transitioning into a middle-income country by 2020, while achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Although it has experienced strong economic growth over the past two decades, the country is not yet on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals’ hunger target or to address more broadly undernutrition. Wasting among children under 5 has reached 18 percent in one province, the national stunting rate is 40 percent, and micronutrient deficiencies such as anaemia affect more than 40 percent of children.
The Government has recognized the importance of addressing undernutrition in order to achieve its development goals. National policies and frameworks offer the opportunity to take concerted action. WFP’s new country strategy aims to support government efforts to reduce wasting, stunting and micronutrient deficiencies. This country programme will implement the strategy through five components that will reach 751,000 beneficiaries over four years:
i) Emergency preparedness and response;
ii) Mother-and-child health and nutrition;
iii) School meals;
iv) Livelihood initiatives for nutrition; and
v) Food fortification and marketing.
Component 1 focuses on strengthening the Government’s capacity at the national, provincial and district levels to prepare for and respond to emergencies. Components 2, 3, and 4 address stunting through an innovative five-step approach involving: problem analysis, awareness raising, nutrition education, opportunities for action, and follow-up and celebration. Under Component 5, technical support will be provided for food fortification with a view to reducing micronutrient deficiencies. Specific criteria for hand-over to the Government or market sustainability will be applied under each Component.
The country programme is in line with the Government’s Seventh National Socio-Economic Development Plan (20112015) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (20122015), and supports the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. It responds to the recommendations of the 2009 country portfolio evaluation and contributes to WFP’s Strategic Objective 2, 4 and 5.