The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a least developed and low-income food-deficit country. Lao PDR is landlocked, with a population of 6 million comprising 49 officially recognized ethnic groups. It has one of the lowest population densities in Asia and villages tend to be scattered, remote and cut-off from essential services. More than one quarter of the population lives under the national poverty line.
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. In this context, malnutrition remains a challenge for the country. The International Food Policy Research Institute 2012 Global Hunger Index describes the situation in Lao PDR as serious.
Despite steady economic growth over the last 15 years, Lao PDR continues to have very high chronic malnutrition rates: nearly every second child under the age of 5 in Lao PDR is chronically malnourished and every fifth rural child is severely stunted. These rates are even higher in remote areas and among some ethnic groups.
Natural disasters such as floods, droughts and pests are common and can lead to acute undernutrition since the infrastructure is weak and overall coping strategies are limited. In addition, micronutrient deficiencies affect large parts of the population, with over 40 percent of children under 5 and 63 percent of children under 2 suffering from anemia, and almost 45 percent of children under 5 and 23 percent of women between 12 and 49 years of age affected by sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency.