Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Building the capacity of health workers is helping to promote positive behaviours and reduce malnutrition in Laos

Under the Partnership for Improved Nutrition, the Government, the EU and UNICEF are working together to support the adoption of recommended maternal, infant and young child health, nutrition and hygiene practices at community level and especially in hard-to-reach areas

Doctor Lamany Lorvanxay is the Head of Saleuy Health Center, in Sam Neua district, Huaphanh Province. Her team provides Maternal and Child Health Care, including immunization, and prevention and treatment of malnutrition.

She is one of the 19 health workers from Sam Neua who were recently trained on Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices thanks to the 1,000 Days Project funded by MMG through UNICEF Australia, which is part of a larger umbrella initiative, the Partnership for Improved Nutrition (PIN), to which the European Union and UNICEF contribute substantially.

This training has allowed Lamany to better perform her daily duties, including carrying out interpersonal communication activities. 

“Working with ethnic minority groups is challenging because we speak different languages. Their education level is also an issue and this makes communication difficult. However, we have seen positive trends and I can say that these groups are more supportive now than before,” she explains.

Reaching those in hard-to-reach areas is not always easy, but Lamany is driven by her desire to improve people’s lives. “It is an honour for me to help others. I don’t want to see children suffering from malnutrition and I believe I can make a difference by promoting positive behaviours and providing counselling”.

For the Government of Lao PDR, improving the nutritional status of children and women is a priority. “To achieve this goal, it is crucial that both parents and care givers understand their role,” states Dr Phouangsy Phommavanh, Head of the Hygiene and Health Promotion Division, Huaphanh Provincial Health Department.

“Before starting to work with development partners under the 1,000 Days Project, people in Huaphanh used to feed children rice at a very early stage. Thanks to this programme, we have been promoting exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months,” Dr. Phouangsy says.

As she recognizes, change does not happen overnight. “When mothers hear for the first time about exclusive breastfeeding, they tend to refuse it.” Cultural beliefs and practices are deep rooted and, thus, it is important to closely work with these communities, gain trust and continuously repeat the messages. “During the awareness sessions, we also show evidence of the positive impact that exclusive breastfeeding has on children’s health by comparing children that are fed rice and those who have been exclusively breastfed, so they visually see the difference, and this works,” she concludes.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Request for proposal


wishes to invite you to submit a proposal for

Institutional Consultancy for Development of a Parenting Package to promote early childhood development (ECD) for Lao PDR.

SEALED Proposals should be sent to:

UNICEF Vientiane, Lao PDR
Bid Reference Number: LRPS-2018/9141013
Km3 Thadeua Road, Ban Watnak
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Telephone: +856 21 315200 - 04
Facsimile: +856 21 314852

Deadline to submit Proposal: 25 July 2018

For more info, click https://www.unicef.org/laos/about_22792.html

Friday, June 15, 2018

For every child, a strong father

A Fathers’ Day tribute through a new UNICEF dad

- Saykoson Sanoubane

“Her kiss makes my day,” Phonesouphanh Thepbandith, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) assistant at the UNICEF office in Vientiane, says with his smile. “My life – including my priorities – totally changed when Ailynn was born.” He and his wife Anny gave her the name Ailynn, which means graceful and light, lover of nature.

Phonesouphanh is excited to take on is his new role as father, more so for having a supportive and enabling environment. When he joined UNICEF, his wife was just four months pregnant. In that critical time, he needed to balance his new job and his role at home. By availing UNICEF’s flexible leave policy, he took on both new roles in stride.

“UNICEF is a father-friendly office, I feel very fortunate!” he exclaims, adding he learned to deal with new things every day. He started to do his research on how being a good father and supportive husband to his pregnant wife from internet sites, talking to his parents, friends and colleagues – all of which allowed him to ask the right questions to their doctor.

Following through nutrition advice from his doctor, Phonesouphanh made sure he provided the right nutritious food for his wife; including fresh and organic vegetables. “I also learned how to cook and now I am good at it,” he proudly says with a smile. And on the day of his daughter’s birth, Phonesouphanh stayed by his wife’s side – scared but excited. But the moment he laid his eyes on his newborn, he cried in relief.

To help him and his new family settle, Phonesouphanh availed UNICEF’s paternity leave to take care of his wife who was recovering – and to enjoy his new role as a father. “I am so lucky to work where I can use my paternity leave, with a supervisor who is very supportive,” he recalls.

Now Ailynn is six months – with lots of energy, giggles and in the pink of health. “She is being breastfed by her mother,” Phonesouphanh proudly says. He also remains committed to support his wife with all that he can provide; and is very eager to see his daughter grow healthy and full of love.

Fathers play a very important role in the early moments of a child’s life, especially to enable their wives to breastfeed, and to help her provide health stimulants to their newborn by playing with them and providing the love and care. Phonesouphanh continues to visit the market after work, to get his supply of nutrition food for his growing family. He also still cooks and takes turns in changing her diapers at night, and most of all to calm her when she cries.

“I love the new role I play for my wife and as a father to my daughter. The closer Ailynn feels the bond with me and his mother, the happier we are as a family. Even with just a kiss or getting a moment to play with her before going to work – that alone gives me the whole day’s supply of energy to work harder for my family.” Spoken like a truly doting father. Because every child deserves all the love and affection, health and protection that only a father can provide.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ending polio outbreaks in Laos

- by Simon Nazer

It’s an unseasonably cool morning in Senxay Village, near central Laos, and a good day for health teams to go door to door to vaccinate children against polio. For mothers like 25-year-old Vardy, she’s delighted to see her 5-month-old baby boy being immunized. “I’m really happy,” she says with a beaming smile while bouncing her baby up and down. “I know after being vaccinated my baby will stay healthy and safe.”

In remote ethnic villages like these, children are often the most at-risk of preventable diseases and viruses, and it wasn’t so long ago that tragedy had struck in a nearby village.

In late 2015, an 8-year-old boy suddenly had a high fever and weak limbs. Four days later, he tragically died in hospital from vaccine-derived polio virus.

“Reaching every child with vaccinations can be a challenge, but it’s critical we do to stop similar outbreaks,” says Dr. Inphone Maniseng, Director of the District Health Department overseeing a huge vaccination campaign. “Since the outbreak we’ve carried out eight vaccination rounds for thousands of children.”

However, with the support of UNICEF and WHO, one last push to ensure polio is eradicated once and for all is taking place over ten days in 13 provinces and 90 districts to vaccinate about 460,000 children under five.

Mothers like Vardy in the picturesque villages of Laos not only have their children vaccinated, but understand the need to ensure they keep up with regular vaccinations. “I now know that vaccinations are important to keep my children healthy. I’ll make sure I take them for immunization to keep them safe.”

Community participation

A big reason vaccine-derived polio broke out in this part of Laos was, according to village leader Khamphet Chansomphou, because of low awareness and lack of community involvement. “Raising awareness and explaining the importance of being vaccinated to the villagers was really important to ensure they come,” he says in the local health centre.

“They have to clearly understand that while it’s about keeping children healthy, it’s also about education and their economy. Healthy children can go to school and learn, healthy children don’t need costly medicines.”

UNICEF worked closely with partners to create educational materials in local languages to inform villagers about the importance of being vaccinated. UNICEF staff and partners travelled village to village to deliver the information, show videos using mini-projectors and hold open discussions to explain vaccinations.

“By talking to communities we also get a better understanding of how we can serve them,” says Mr Chansomphou. “It works both ways – it helps us think about how to improve our services and understand people’s needs.”

Polio has now been eradicated and children are safe again, but health providers must ensure efforts to reach every child remain to ensure similar outbreaks never happen again.

Nearby, 20 year old mother Xim Dua was just stopped by a mobile health team. “This is the first time my 5-month baby has been vaccinated,” she says shyly. “We live a long way, I didn’t know.”

Now she knows and after the health team explains to her the need to ensure her baby is vaccinated, she’ll be back. But UNICEF and partners must continue to work to ensure they reach everyone, no matter how far they are. Only then will every child be safe from preventable diseases and illness.

Monday, April 23, 2018

No mountain too high: ending polio in Laos

- by Simon Nazer

For 15 years Daeng Xayaseng has been travelling through rugged, undulating countryside by motorbike and by foot to deliver vaccines to children in some of the most remote villages in Laos.

It’s hard work but she is determined: “We have a target of children to reach and we’ll achieve that no matter how long it takes,” she says. “We’ll keep working until we reach every child.”

Today her team visits Nampoung village, 4 hours north of the capital of Laos, to deliver polio vaccines.

In 2015 a vaccine-derived polio virus was contracted by 11 children and adults, killing 2. Remote, poor and often ethnic communities such as those in this Hmong village are among the most vulnerable to the spread of disease and viruses. When dangerous viral outbreaks occur, it’s important health teams come to those most in need of health services.

“Service times depends on the season,” says Daeng. “It’s rice season right now. The villagers are all farmers so everyone will be working in the fields, a long way from their homes. That’s why our services depend on what the community asks; if they say 3pm, we come at that time. If they say night time, we’ll be there.”

The team first sets up in the centre of the village. In the local Hmong language the village chiefs calls on parents to bring their children to be immunized through booming loudspeakers. Soon, parents arrive with small children in slings on their backs, and the larger children following quickly behind. 

“For 15 years I’ve been working on campaigns like this,” she says. “Today we’re here with our outreach team to vaccinate children against polio. We’ll also go house to house to make sure no child misses out on being vaccinated.”

Once the team finishes at the vaccination point, they then go mobile and walk house to house to find children who didn’t come for immunization.

“We don’t want there to be another outbreak of polio so we have to reach everyone,” says Daeng. “In order to do that, immunizing every child in remote communities like this is a priority to ensure everyone is protected.”

UNICEF, with WHO, is supporting the Lao Government to reach nearly half a million children under five with potentially life-saving vaccines. More than 7,200 volunteers and 1,400 health workers like Daeng and her team have been mobilised to deliver the oral polio vaccine as well as other vaccinations such as measles-rubella.

After several hours, the work is complete.

“I’m very happy and proud to do this job,” says Daeng once the team has packed up. “I’m proud to do this job to serve the community and help in any way I can.”