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The health and nutrition of mothers, babies and young children in remote areas of Laos will receive a major boost thanks to the launch of the joint Ministry of Health - United Nations (UN) Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition programme in Savannakhet, Phongsaly, Luangnamtha and Oudomxay provinces.

In a meeting to launch the programme on 27 May, senior representatives of the Ministry of Health at central level and from the three provinces were joined by senior representatives from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO). A similar launch was held in Savannakhet on May 23rd.

"Through good cooperation with our health colleagues and international partners, we believe this programme will help improve mother and child health and nutrition and thus also alleviate poverty in our target areas," said Lao Deputy Minister of Health, Prof. Dr Bounkong Sihavong. "This is one of the Ministry of Health's topmost priorities to help our country achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) goals."

Despite major socio-economic improvements in the past decade, Laos continues to hold some of the highest rates of maternal and child deaths, illness and disabilities in the region. This is compounded by equally high malnutrition rates.

"The Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition programme is aimed at significantly reducing mortality and malnutrition rates among mothers, newborns and young children and improving nutritional outcomes through increased leadership, enhanced services and community empowerment ", said Dr Yunguo Liu on behalf of the UN agencies.

The 5-year programmatic support aims to integrate a full package of maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition interventions by working with communities, district and provincial health managers to upgrade the services and build demand for services. In this joint effort, the four UN agencies will use their comparative advantages to support a range of essential activities that will have a direct impact on the health and nutrition status of mothers and children.

The programme is possible thanks to a co-financing agreement of more than 8 million Euros signed between the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Ministry of Health, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP and WHO to support the National Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Services Strategy and the National Nutrition Strategy in Lao PDR.

For further information, please contact:

Diego De La Rosa, Advocacy and Communication Officer, United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA

Tel: (85621) 315547 ext 116 Mobile: + 856-20-77791053