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UNFPA supports the training of around 100 Community Midiwives per year.

In the spirit of delivering as one UN entity and in line with the Vientiane Declaration, the Joint Programme is a cooperation between the Ministry of Health and four UN organizations: the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Despite major socio-economic improvements in the past decade, Lao PDR 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. In response, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has declared reduction in maternal mortality rates and malnutrition as two of the top priorities in the 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP).

The UN Joint Programme on Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health which also addresses nutrition of children, pregnant and lactating women supports MOH in this effort by working with communities, district and provincial health managers to improve quality and coverage of services to women and children and build demand for services.

Malnutrition in women and young children, endemic diseases, and lack of access to health care, medicine and medical personnel in rural health centres all contribute to high maternal and child mortality rates, and need to be addressed simultaneously. The four UN agencies will use their comparative advantages to support activities that have a direct impact on the health and nutrition of mothers and children.

UNFPAs support for quality family planning and birth spacing information and services, as well help in producing around 100 Community Midwives per year is aimed at ensuring the health of mothers and children before, during and after birth. A healthy mother is crucial for healthy and happy families and to ensure good nurturing, including nourishment of newborns and young children.

UNICEF, given its long standing work in health, nutrition and water /sanitation, is supporting mobilization and training strategies to increase demand for services and improve health and nutrition home care practices. UNICEF supported initiatives also reinforce others by targeting improved access to and use of safe water, basic sanitation and improved hygiene.

WFP uses its expertise in addressing malnutrition by providing specialised nutrition products to ensure children get all the nutrients they need during the critical first 1000 days of their life, from conception to two years of age. To increase the attendance of health centres, especially before, during and after childbirth, WFP also provides food incentives to encourage pregnant and lactating women to attend regular check-ups.

WHO is responsible for de-worming programmes to help fight widespread parasitic diseases, weekly iron supplies which improve the health and wellbeing of children and women, especially during pregnancy, as well as vaccination campaigns to reduce or eradicate some of the most common infectious diseases.

"It is very encouraging to see more pregnant women use health services, as antenatal care has many benefits far beyond pregnancy" says Esther Muia, the new UNFPA Representative. "Antenatal care offers many opportunities for improving the knowledge and skills of women to help them take good care of their families and to plan and space their pregnancies, which in turn will reduce the burden of ill health which is closely linked to keeping families in poverty."

The programme is made 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.