Laos, located in Southeast Asia, has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the Western Pacific Region with 44% of children under the age of five, suffering from stunted growth and development. To help address this and to help keep students in school, we are working with local communities to improve their knowledge on nutrition and to introduce healthy school meals.
During the first three months of 2019, we supported 376 children from Samsavath Tai and Nampoung primary schools to enjoy a balanced lunch to enable them to concentrate better at school and support their physical and mental development. These meals were prepared by community members and parents. Our team worked with local doctors to train teachers and mothers on how to prepare nutritious meals based on the quality of ingredients and sources of protein available and according to the children’s needs. The mothers’ mission was to prepare the menus in consultation with the project team and the school director.
Currently, participants leave home early in the mornings to buy meats and vegetables from the local markets and upon their return back to their communities, they share the workload to ensure all the meals are ready before the end of the school. Our project aims to raise awareness among parents and local communities on the importance of food and health but also on personal hygiene. Typically, in the schools where we work, students leave the classrooms at 11am to prepare for lunch which includes washing their hands before sitting down to eat.
“My friends and I, we like to eat in the canteen because the meal is very varied. My favorite meals are sautéed rice with pork and vegetables, fish soup and oranges, ” says Amonexay, a young girl benefiting from the project.
Mr. Kanya Leexaiher, Director of Nampoung Primary School, is very satisfied with the changes brought about by the project so far both in terms of the children’s learning and their health. In addition, through training and awareness campaigns, parents and surrounding communities have gradually come to understand the benefit of balanced meals for the healthy development of children. “Students come to school every day, and they are rarely absent. The absence rate has dropped significantly compared to the last 4 years, ” added Kanya, demonstrating how the project has already increased attendance.