Press Release

At the 75th Anniversary of FAO UN says food and nutrition security turns critical in Lao PDR with the socio-economic fallout of COVID-19 challenging the achievement of SDG 1 and 2 on No Poverty and Zero Hunger

03 November 2020

VIENTIANE October 31 – Lao PDR's progress in halving under-five child mortality is a remarkable achievement well worthy of celebration, yet challenges in further reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty are on the rise due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the United Nations in the Lao PDR.

Photo: © WFP Lao PDR/Vilakhone Sipaseuth

United Nations Resident Coordinator Sara Sekkenes made the comments in a speech celebrating World Food Day 2020, the International Day and the National Week for the Eradication of Poverty at the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The three-day event on 29-31 October, was attended by the excellencies Mr. Khambounnut Sayyanone and Dr. Linkham Douangsavanh, Deputy–ministers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

FAO representative Nasar Hayat, the World Food Programme (WFP) Country director Jan Delbaere, and representatives of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United National Development Programme (UNDP) joined the Ministry in celebrating the annual event. The ceremony together with seminars, information booths and markets saw a gathering of farmers and producers, policymakers, researchers, academia and students of the agriculture and forestry sector, and the international community including representatives of groups promoting greater awareness and action together with those who suffer from hunger.

Addressing the gathering on Friday, October 30, Ms. Sekkenes referred to the long-standing cooperation in partnership with the Government to reduce poverty rates and undernourishment, and to improve primary school enrollment towards achieving the relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). "Since 1990, this has halved the mortality rate of children under 5-years-old, creating life-long positive personal and social impacts" she said.

Quoting the recent Poverty Profile of the Lao Statistics Bureau together with the World Bank, Ms. Sekkenes said Lao PDR had made remarkable progress in reducing poverty over the past few decades, halving the poverty rate from over 40% in 1993 to 18.3% in 2019. Yet, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livelihoods and economy, estimates indicate that the poverty rate may jump to over 20%, given the high impact on the hospitality industry and the high levels of informality in the Lao labor market. "To address these multi-layered challenges, we must continue to support the progress of Lao PDR in achieving the SDGs, including the critical indicators for poverty reduction, on zero hunger as well as food security and a nutritious diet for all. Such efforts would contribute to an equitable society, which, in turn, strengthens national stability. Together, we work to ensure that food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture, poverty alleviation, and rural development are increasingly recognized as major parts of the solution to the global zero hunger challenge under Agenda 2030" she said.

Held at the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute in Vientiane capital, in-person events were of reduced scale from previous years due to COVID-19 prevention measures. The opening ceremony, addresses, and seminar sessions were live streamed on social media (Facebook). Seminar topics included clean agriculture development for food security and nutrition, gender empowerment and agricultural production, scaling up sustainable land management practices by smallholder farmers, biodiversity for food security and improving upland livelihoods together with factors associated with child malnutrition of multiethnic people in mountainous areas, cooperative development and policy support in rural areas.

World Food Day 2020 also marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations' oldest permanent specialized agency, the FAO. Established on 16 October 1945, FAO was mandated to work on increasing agricultural productivity to eliminate hunger, improve nutrition, and enhance livelihoods.

World Food Day 2020 also comes as the world must respond to and recover from the impact of COVID-19 on food systems and the millions of people who rely on them for nourishment. While the spread of the pandemic has seriously disrupted food security and livelihoods for millions of people in this region, the world also finds itself off-track to meet the SDG to end poverty and hunger. “Action is needed immediately”, said FAO Director-General, Mr. Qu Dongyu, in a global video message played at the event.

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