South Korea backs efforts to improve newborn and child health

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) of South Korea will provide about US$7.5 million to Laos from 2019 to 2023 to improve maternal, newborn and child health in three provinces. 

A funding agreement was signed in Vientiane on Tuesday by the Director General of the Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion under the Ministry of Health, Dr Bounpheng Philavong, and the Resident Representative of the KOICA office in Laos, Mr Sung-soo Oh.

Present on the occasion was Deputy Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Phouthone Muongpak, and the heads of provincial health departments.

Korea’s financial assistance is part of a project to fund maternal and child health services, known as Quality and Accessibility Improvement and Development Community-Based Programme for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Northern Provinces of Laos.

The funding will be used to improve reproductive health and help reduce maternal, neonatal and child mortality, as well as malnutrition, in the provinces of Luang Namtha, Oudomxay and Luang Prabang.

These provinces will work together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in community-based activities.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Dr Phouthone said the project would involve district health offices and health centres as health service providers.

The project aims to increase the coverage and utilisation of high-quality reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health interventions at the household, community and health facility levels. It will also attempt to improve service quality at health centres and address gaps in community health education and development.

Another goal is to improve the quality and sustainability of supervision, as well as addressing access barriers through the establishment of outreach and village health worker systems, Dr Phouthone said.

The government has introduced the Strategy and Action Plan for Integrated Service on Reproductive Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Under this initiative, health officials and village volunteers collect data on the mortality rates of infants and mothers in their villages.

Health officials and village volunteers in each province have already improved the quality of healthcare services for mothers and infants, including those offered by medical staff at hospitals and dispensaries at both the central and district level.