Health and Nutrition

An estimated 14,000 children in Lao PDR die before reaching the age of five. 

  • Over 6000 of these deaths are prompted by malnutrition
  • More than 5500 of under –five deaths are due to neonatal conditions
  • Estimated 4,200 die from pneumonia or diarrhoea

Additionally, 363,000 of children under-five are stunted in Lao PDR.  Stunting is low height for age and over 40% of children in Lao are stunted. One in four children is underweight, one in five children suffer from iodine deficiency, which affects the brain and may cause learning impairments.  Every year Lao PDR loses USD 200 million/year of its Gross Domestic Product due to malnutrition.

Most Child deaths in Lao PDR are due to common preventable treatable conditions (39% neonatal conditions, 18% pneumonia and 10% diarrhoea).

Ms Lit and Siliphone, 4 months. Siliphone is recovering from malaria in Sayaboury hospital.


What We Do

Save the Children is playing a prominent role in helping Lao PDR close the gap on infant and child survival through an innovative and proven Primary Health Care Program that places a priority on women and children.  In partnership with Government Provincial Health Departments, infant, child and maternal mortality in selected districts are the lowest in the country. 

As a child rights-based organisation, we have a commitment to ensure that all Lao children achieve their rights to survival.  We work with local midwives, nurses, doctors, and community members to make this a reality. A strong focus is placed on health systems strengthening such as skill development through training, and data collection and analysis.

Save the Children Primary Health Care (PHC) Approach has been active in Sayaboury Province since 1992.  This approach has assisted the Government of Lao to reach two MDG goals for infant and maternal mortality for that province.   As a result, in 2010 the Government of Lao has invited Save the Children to expand the model in Luang Prabang Province.

Here are some key points to our PHC model:

  • Strengthens district health management by developing skills and having robust systems in place.
  • Improves access to health facilities: building more clinics so more communities live within a 5 km or 60 minute walk from a health facility.
  • Provides training to health workers and managers (e.g. midwives, nurses, doctors, health volunteers and administrators) to improve and expand quality delivery of health services.
  • Promotes inter-sectoral collaboration and has strong community participation.
  • Works with communities to solve chronic malnutrition.

The Sustainable Change Achieved through Linking Improved Nutrition and Governance (SCALING) is a project aiming to improve the nutritional status of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and children under 5 in 14 districts in in the provinces of Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha, Phongsaly and Huaphanh. Its implementation is led by Save the Children in consortium with CARE, Comité de Coopération avec le Laos and ChildFund. The project is funded by the European Union (EU) through Pillar 3 of its umbrella initiative Partnership for Improved Nutrition in Lao PDR and runs from December 2017 to December 2021.

 Funded by the European Union

Find out more about EU’s support for international cooperation and development around the world and in Laos on the web here:  European Commission – International Cooperation and Development and Delegation of the European Union to Lao PDR, and on social media: @europeaid and @EUinLaos.


Our Impact

During a six month period from Jan. to June 2013, there were 2,502 people trained from: specialist doctors, ethnic students on nursing scholarships, to nurses becoming qualified as midwives, health staff managing local souksalas (clinics), to village volunteers responding to the dengue epidemic. 

In 2012, 119,897 women and 57,955 children under the age of five accessed and received maternal, new-born, and child health interventions.  4,709 births were assisted by a skilled birth attendant.

In 2013, an independent review concluded that “the program has demonstrably improved close-to-client services and successfully engaged communities to make use of these services.  MDG indicators show steady improvement.  Importantly this has been accomplished at low-cost relative to international norms”, following on from an earlier review which found “the Sayaboury Primary Health Care Project is probably the most effective health program in Lao PDR.” The joint program has also received commendation awards from the Government of Lao PDR and United Nations.