Souvanna, aged 1 year and 8 months, has a new favourite food: Plumpy’Doz. As soon as her mother San takes out the white-and-orange tub containing the peanut-based paste used to prevent malnutrition, the little girl reaches for it excitedly.
San smiles at her daughter’s delight. “My daughter really loves Plumpy’Doz”, she tells us. “I give her three spoons a day after meals, as recommended by the health staff, but she would eat much more if I let her”.
Since June 2011, San and her daughter have been participating in WFP’s Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) programme, which aims to reduce the rate of chronic malnutrition in children under 2 years of age, and to promote the use of health centres among pregnant and lactating women.
San lives in Ban Mokchong, a village of only 47 households in Luangnamtha province, in the north-western corner of Lao PDR. Married at the age of 17, Souvanna is her first child.
“We’re lucky to have a chance to participate in the WFP programme”, she says. “Since getting the Plumpy’Doz, Souvanna is more active and she gets sick less often.”
The little girl is one of the first children to receive the nutritious food rations. From the age of 6 months until their second birthday, children receive Plumpy’Doz as a supplement to their regular food to ensure they get all the nutrients their brains and bodies need to grow up strong and healthy.
But the MCHN programme not only focuses on young children, it aims to cover the full first 1000 days of life, from conception to two years of age, when a lack in nutrients can lead to permanent damage to a child’s brain and body.
WFP’s support starts during pregnancy: women are encouraged to visit health centres regularly before, during and after the birth of their child. At Mokchong health centre, like in 67 others currently covered by the programme, trained staff give women a routine check-up as well as important information about nutrition, hygiene and sanitation.
After the baby is born, the nurses ensure mother and child are healthy, and administer first vaccinations to the baby. For up to four visits before, and two visits after birth, as well as the delivery itself, WFP gives women a ration of rice at the health centre to encourage them to come and to cover the time and travel cost many need to expend to reach the clinic.
Since the implementation of the MCHN programme, the number of pregnant and lactating women visiting health centres has more than tripled in some places.
Thanks to support from Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea, Japan and France, WFP will be able to expand MCHN activities in 2012 to reach another four health centres and 42 villages in a third province in Laos. By the end of the year, more than 5,200 women and 16,300 children will be covered by the programme.