Lao People's Democratic Republic Launches National Zero Hunger Challenge
The government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, in collaboration with the United Nations, has launched the National Zero Hunger Challenge, joining other countries striving to eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.
The Global Zero Hunger Challenge was launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in 2012, calling on all countries to ensure every person has adequate nutrition and that all food systems are resilient. The Challenge comprises five elements to ensure equitable access to nutritious food, end stunting in children, maintain sustainable food systems, increase smallholder productivity, and put an end to the loss and waste of food.
H.E. Somsavat Lengsavat, Deputy Prime Minister of Lao PDR, has recognized the link between the Zero Hunger Challenge and the country’s plans and progammes. “By joining the Zero Hunger Challenge, we are making a strong statement that food insecurity and malnutrition in our country will end by 2025,” Lengsavat declared in a meeting with Kaarina Immonen, UN Resident Coordinator and Hiroyuki Konuma, Chair of the UN Thematic Working Group on Poverty and Hunger in Asia and the Pacific and FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative.
A seminar chaired by H.E. Phouang Parisak Pravongviengkham, Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, and co-chaired by Immonen, was organized to discuss the alignment between the Government’s food security and nutrition policies and programmes and the Challenge’s goals. On this basis, Lao PDR will work with the UN and other development partners to achieve the Zero Hunger Challenge targets on time.
In his remarks, Phouang Parisak explained that Lao PDR’s existing national mechanisms for food security and nutrition will be coordinated across sectors to create a more positive impact for the poor and vulnerable, in the context of the Zero Hunger Challenge goals. He also stated that key national strategies and programs in Lao PDR such as the Agricultural Development Strategy and the National Nutrition Strategy will provide the framework for achieving the Zero Hunger Challenge.
Lao PDR has already halved the proportion of the population receiving insufficient calories, enabling the country to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 1 related to hunger. Lao PDR is one of the countries that will be given an award for its progress in this area at the upcoming FAO Conference in Rome in early June. However the malnutrition goal has not been achieved as reflected in the relatively high rates of stunting and underweight rates. The Zero Hunger Challenge will further address the hunger goal while also addressing the malnutrition situation.
Kaarina Immonen welcomed the Zero Hunger Challenge launch and acknowledged the importance of the Challenge targets in food security and nutrition, which she noted would not be easy to attain. “This is a day of great significance to Lao PDR,” Immonen said. “The achievement of these targets will be an important contribution to improve the lives of people in Lao PDR, and to Lao PDR’s graduation from Least Developed Country status.”
During his presentation, FAO’s Hiroyuki Konuma congratulated Lao PDR which achieved MDG Goal No. 1 Hunger Target in 2015. He also highlighted the progress of the Asia-Pacific region in reducing chronic hunger and poverty, and noted the progress of other Asian countries. “Today, Lao PDR joins other Asian countries and neighbors, including Cambodia, Myanmar and Viet Nam in this commitment to eradicate hunger,” Konuma said. “Two thirds of the world’s hungry live in Asia and the Pacific, and we must work together to achieve the goal. We cannot and must not stop until we reach zero and we will reach it.”
The Lao PDR plans and programmes will address the Regional Guiding Framework for the Zero Hunger Challenge in Asia and the Pacific, co-produced by FAO, UNESCAP, and UNDP in 2013, that provides member countries with a range of concrete outputs to achieve by 2025.
Around 50 representatives from several government agencies, as well as UN agencies, development partners and INGOs attended the launch event.