“I want to see women and children receive more care and support from their families. I want them to have access to good nutrition, healthcare, and information. These things may not make them rich, but they will have good health, know how to care for themselves and their families; children will grow healthily; and everyone will be free from malnutrition,” said Chef Touktik, ADRA Laos’ Health and Nutrition Officer.
While many of us are living in comfortable homes with a lot of food choices on our kitchen tables, countless parents cannot afford the opportunity to choose what to feed their children. Eating is rather a matter of survival. Poverty, food insecurity, and/or poor nutritional practices are to some extent synonymous with malnutrition. Malnourished children do not grow the way they are supposed to grow. According to their age they are often underweight or short. This health condition leads to a whole range of issues, including sicknesses, diminished cognitive and physical development, and in severe cases disabilities and increased risk of degenerative diseases in future.
As an organisation charged to provide food for the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, healing to the sick, and comfort to the destitute, ADRA Laos has always had a soft spot for children and mothers who are struggling in the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition. Currently, ADRA is implementing phase II of the nutrition and livelihoods project in Laos, which is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. The project works in Xienkhouang Province where acute malnutrition is as high as 10.43%, chronic malnutrition 33.43%, and underweight 12.71% in children under 5 years of age. The project addresses undernutrition through various interventions, one approach is the Positive Deviance/Hearth or community nutrition rehabilitation program. It integrates feeding with education, community management, growth monitoring, counselling, and referrals, all to improve maternal and children nutritional status.
All ADRA Laos staff work hard and feel blessed to have added to the team a talented female officer. Having joined the ADRA Laos family recently, Touktick, whose real name is Chanikone Louangoudom, immediately became known as a chef because of her cooking skills. As a woman, she is a champion in educating children and women.
Chef Touktick does not consider herself a good cook, particularly when cooking for friends or at home, but she is skilful in preparing nutritious food for malnourished children and advising their parents.
“I’m very happy and glad to play a part in helping people learn about nutrition and enabling them to know what a good diet is, become healthier and be aware of food diversity; children receive more attention from their parents; and women have more access to healthcare. The community realizes the importance of good nutritional practices. These things are very important because they dictate their health now and in the future,” said Chef Touktick when asked how she felt about her role.
“What I feel proud the most is the opportunity to help people in remote areas and giving them the opportunity to learn. I also feel proud of being a nutrition officer because it links to my education which is agriculture. These two things go hand in hand. Good agriculture brings about nutrition or good health for consumers,” she continued.
Malnutrition is a serious issue in ADRA Laos’ target villages. Through the community rehabilitation program, children under five years old are assessed. Those found stunted, wasted, and/or underweight are enrolled in a 12-day feeding session which is literally a ‘stone soup.’ Each household brings together what they have. ADRA staff then turn the ingredients into a balanced nutritious meal for malnourished children (6 months to 5 years old). During these 12 days, children and mothers participate in educational activities such as nutrition awareness, cooking demonstrations, hygiene awareness, drawing/colouring, fun games, etc. Once entering the program, they will be monitored throughout the year on days 12, 30, 90, 180, 270, and 360.
Besides communal activities, the project team (ADRA staff, village health volunteers, and health center staff) also visit pregnant and lactating mothers at their homes to share with them health messages and encourage them on how to take care of their own health, their families, and children.
Like Chef Touktick, ADRA Laos hopes that through this project intervention, mothers, children, and the larger community will become more nutritionally balanced and enjoy good health and a prosperous future.
ADRA Laos is grateful for funding provided by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, ADRA Canada, and other donor offices in making this project possible. Through the ENHUP II project, ADRA Laos is targeting 16 villages in Xiengkhouang Province with PD Hearth activities to reach approximately 200 children where acute malnutrition is high.
Written By: Porm Keosamone & Chanikone Louangoudom
Photo: © 2021 ADRA Laos
Visit the ADRA Laos website to learn more: https://adralaos.org/