Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Creating Lao 'Superkids'

A mother feeds her child food with Superkid
 (c) UNICEF/Fitzgerald
A mining company, UNICEF and 4 million sachets of powder called Super Kid – see the link there? No, perhaps not the most obvious. But today marks a very special day with a new product launch in the southern city of Savannakhet, Laos that will keep Lao children healthier and happier, and that’s all down to a very special partnership.

The initiative aims to dramatically reduce aneamia and other nutrition issues affecting young children in three of Laos’s southern provinces by providing a powder full of vitamins and minerals to sprinkle over food. 

Micronutrient deficiencies in Laos, such as anaemia, result in a many cognitive and physical problems, and are among the worst in the region. More than 40% of children aged 6 months to 5 years old suffer from ameamia, and for infants 6 months to 1 year old more than two-thirds of all children are affected. It’s a huge problem and is holding back the development of the country.

Anaemia is essentially a lack of red blood cells, meaning not enough oxygen is being carried around the body making people feel weak and tired, often finding it difficult to concentrate. For children, this has far-reaching impacts both at home and in school and stops them from developing to their full potential. The reasons are often linked to undernutrition. 

Superkid contains a nutrient powder full of vitamins, iron, zinc and other nutrients that, when mixed into a daily meal, fortify a child’s diet to sufficiently prevent and reduce anaemia and similar illnesses. 

Under the initiative, public health professionals, community volunteers, and private-sector pharmacists will distribute approximately 4 million of sachets of Super Kid, while promoting good child feeding and hygiene practices. The partnership aims to reach an estimated 180,000 children aged 6 – 59 months in Saravan, Savannakhet and Attapeu provinces and if successful will taken to the rest of the country.

At the end of 2012 an initiative was launched by mining company MMG, which operates in Southern Laos, with a partnership with UNICEF and the Lao Government pledging US$1.38 million.

Since then, the Lao Ministry of Health, UNICEF, Population Services International (PSI), the University of British Columbia – together with the ongoing involvement of MMG – have worked together to research and develop a the best plan to get kids healthier. 

So, hopefully this is just the beginning of a fruitful partnership that will help children get a better start in life and achieve as much as they can.