IRIN Examines Malnutrition in Laos

“Economic growth in Laos is propelling the country towards achieving middle income status by 2020, yet chronic malnutrition among children under five years old remains a pervasive challenge, experts say,” IRIN reports. “Steady economic growth over the past decade — eight percent in 2012 — has contributed to a drop in poverty levels,” the news service writes, adding, “Yet Laos struggles with the second-highest rate of malnutrition in East Asia and the Pacific after Timor-Leste, a country that has experienced civil war and unrest over the past two decades.” According to IRIN, experts say the country faces challenges such as “geographic isolation, the need for greater dietary diversity and poor awareness about nutritional health,” as well as a “heavy reliance on subsistence farming in rural areas, [and] seasonal and weather-induced food insecurity.” The news service continues, “Nutritional knowledge is also in short supply, especially in isolated highland villages, and ‘particularly for pregnant mothers and children under the age of five, who are most at risk of immune deficiencies and hindered learning abilities resulting from inadequate food intake,’ said [Uma Palappian, a nutrition specialist with UNICEF Laos]” (MacLean, 8/29).