EU provides 484 billion kip to improve nutrition in Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The European Union (EU) has provided more than 484 billion kip (50 million euros) to improve nutrition and reduce malnutrition in Laos.

Lao government officials from various ministries and the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Mr Neven Mimica, launched the new 50 million-euro flagship initiative to support the Laos National Nutrition Strategy and Plan of Action that will help reduce malnutrition.

The event was held during Mr Mimica’s official visit to Laos on September 9-10.

Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong said the EU’s budget support programme would assist the government in reducing poverty and improving the living standards, health and nutrition of the people.

“Each year, one out of three children under the age of five, or more than 300,000 children grow up with under-developed brains and bodies after being affected by malnutrition, he said.

“We, therefore, need to work very hard to improve the nutritional status of our children, who are important human resources for the development of the country in future,” Dr Bounkong said.

“I stand ready to support, collaborate and work with multiple sectors on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions,” he added.

The EU delegation is entering into a budget support operation instead of transferring funds directly to relevant ministries because this support provided by the European Union aims at using Laos’ country systems and strengthening them to support the implementation of the national nutrition strategy.

The funds are directly channelled through the treasury, and not through other parallel accounts. The EU believes its financial support needs to be part of the national budget and should be spent according to the principle of budget transparency while avoiding a piecemeal approach.

The EU’s financial contribution should not substitute the national effort to eradicate malnutrition, and it should be seen as additional budgetary resources for technical and financial support to implement the entire nutrition strategy, according to the EU.

The four-year programme (2019-2022) will provide support directly to citizens of Laos in addressing different causes of malnutrition in rural districts and remote areas, with a specific focus on gender and disadvantaged groups. The specific objectives of the programme are to improve the quality of nutrient intake, to increase access to, and quality of nutrition-related services, and to improve nutrition-related multi-sectoral governance.

This new financial contribution of 50 million euros reaffirms the EU’s commitment to remain a reliable and long-term partner for Laos. Through the budget support modality, and in line with the European Consensus on Development and the Vientiane Declaration on Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, the EU is committed to being as streamlined as possible with the national systems in Laos.