You are here

Vientiane, March 4, 2011: Efforts to improve the health of women and children living in remote areas of Lao PDR have been given an important boost with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Lao PDRand the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The MoU was signed at a ceremony in Vientiane by the Minister of Health, Dr Ponmek Dalaloy, and the Luxembourg Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Mrs. Marie-Josée Jacobs. Attending the ceremony were senior representatives of the four United Nations agencies - the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization - whose joint programme will utilize the funds totaling Euros 8.1 million over five years to support the Ministry of Health's National Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Services Strategy.

"This programme will make a significant contribution towards reducing mortality rates among mothers, newborns and young children, as well as helping tackle the alarming levels of malnutrition found among too many women and children," said Dr Dalaloy. "As such it also brings us an important step closer towards Lao PDR's Millennium Development Goal targets."

Eighteen districts in five provinces - Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Luangprabang, Oudomxay and Savannakhet - have been selected to receive the support, based on criteria such as the prevailing high rates of disease and stunting among children, and low utilization of existing health facilities.

Currently, less than 20 per cent of women have the benefit of a skilled birth attendant when they give birth, and up to three Lao women die every day during pregnancy or childbirth. Infant mortality rates have improved, but remain high, at 70 per 1,000 live births. Malnutrition data is scarcely more encouraging. There has been almost no change in the rate of stunting since 2000, at 40.4 per cent of children under five. Over 40 per cent of children aged 6-59 months are anaemic.

To prevent stunting, specialized nutrition products will be given to children from 6 months to 23 months of age who are in danger of becoming chronically malnourished. In addition, the Luxembourg contribution will be used to provide food to pregnant women as an incentive for them to access health facilities, and to ensure nutrition education for women of child-bearing age and other caregivers.

As well as improving the quality of health services delivered to communities, the financial support from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg will help strengthen the planning and district-level management of the Government's package of Integrated Maternal and Neonatal Child Health (MNCH) services. Support will also be given to improving awareness and understanding of health issues at community level, and promoting demand among families for the MNCH services provided by the Government of Lao PDR.

"Under the Lao-Luxembourg Health Sector Support Programme, we are already providing assistance to mothers and newborns throughout the country," said Minister Jacobs, "but we felt that we could do a lot more and further expand the outreach of healthcare with the help of the UN system."

The Minister pointed that that the needs were substantial - especially in remote areas and among ethnic minorities. She added: "However, we are confident that under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and the combined expertise of UNICEF, WFP, WHO and UNFPA, our joint action will significantly contribute to help the Government of Lao PDR in meeting its development objectives and in particular MDGs 1, 4 and 5. "


The MoU underlines the specific contributions of each of the four UN agencies, all of whom have long records of cooperation with the Government in Lao PDR. Combining the efforts of the various UN agencies, says the document, "offers a number of comparative advantages to the MoH including supporting health system strengthening, offering opportunities for coordinated and comprehensive technical leadership and coordination of the development partner community, whilst at the same time supporting government leadership and governance."

For further information, please contact:

Diego De La Rosa, Advocacy and Communication Officer, United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA
Tel: + 856 21 315547 ext 116 Mobile: + 856-20-77791053

Gabriel Baptista, Attaché, Embassy of Luxembourg in Vietnam (Office for Development Cooperation) Tel: (00844) 3946 1416 Mobile (0084) (0)914342877