Food For Thought


Lao PDR Public health officials learn ways to design healthier and more nutritious meals for school children during a training course in Singapore

Despite steady economic growth over the last 15 years, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) continues to have very high chronic malnutrition rates: nearly every second child under the age of five is chronically malnourished and every fifth rural child is severely stunted. These rates are even higher in remote areas and among some ethnic groups. For this reason, in December 2015, the Ministry of Health in Lao PDR, Temasek Polytechnic and Temasek Foundation teamed up to initiate a three-year capacity building training programme on Public Healthcare and Nutrition Intervention in Lao PDR. With funding from Temasek Foundation, trainers from Temasek Polytechnic will share their knowledge of nutrition intervention with 100 public health and nutrition officials from schools, hospitals and health centres across Lao PDR over a two-year period.

The three-week training course started in Vientiane in January 2016 and continued in Singapore in March 2016. The programme participants learnt about health and nutrition related knowledge, such as meal planning, better meal preparation, health education and illness prevention. They also gained knowledge of nutrition assessment skills, which will enable them to carry out basic nutrition evaluation to monitor the health status of the target groups identified by the Ministry of Health of Lao PDR. To extend the impact of the programme to the wider community, the 100 participants will also share their knowledge with another 200 of their peers.

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About Lao PDR
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is one of the world’s least developed countries. It is landlocked and mountainous, with significant parts of the country still inaccessible by road. Food insecurity remains widespread throughout the country and alarmingly high in rural areas. With a population of 6 million comprising 49 officially recognised ethnic groups, it has one of the lowest population densities in Asia. More than one quarter of the population lives under the national poverty line. Furthermore, according to the United Nations, Lao PDR is the world’s most heavily bombed country (per capita). Two thirds of the country is still contaminated with unexploded ordnance, which continues to cause death and injury and prevents the use of land for agriculture or animal husbandry, having a direct impact on food security.

What is malnutrition?
Malnutrition is defined as any disorder of nutrition. It may result from an unbalanced, insufficient or excessive diet or from impaired absorption, assimilation or use of foods. Overnutrition, a condition of excess nutrient and energy intake over time may be regarded as a form of malnutrition when it leads to morbid obesity. Undernutrition is a condition of malnutrition caused by an inadequate food supply or an inability to use the nutrients in food.

Did you know…

Seventy per cent of all malnourished children in the world live in Asia. Thirty per cent of children under five in Asia-Pacific are underweight. The Subcontinent of Asia, including India and Bangladesh, has the highest rates (16%) of malnutrition and the largest number of people suffering from hunger in Asia. (Source UNICEF)