The Alive and Thrive's project on improving infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices has achieved remarkable results in reducing under-nutrition of children in Vietnam.

The six-year-long project's two key counselling models, the Mat troi be tho social franchise and IYCF support groups, have contributed to the dramatic increases in breast-feeding rates and additional improvement in complementary feeding.

"The most important result of all is the impact that these improved feeding practices will have on the health and well-being of Vietnam's most precious resource, its children," said Ellen Piwoz, senior programme officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that funded the Alive and Thrive initiative, at a workshop on December 9.

"By creating a new social norm for breast feeding, new generations of well-nourished children will be able to achieve their full potential in life," added Piwoz.

From 2010 to 2014, exclusive breast-feeding rates have increased from 19 to 58 percent, almost tripling in programme areas that had the Mat troi be tho social franchise, where mothers received IYCF counselling services.

The network of 1,100 social-franchise locations has provided counselling on infant feeding to more than two million pregnant women, lactating mothers and caregivers in 15 project provinces since 2010.

IYCF support groups were developed for remote areas that fall outside the mainstream health system, which was particularly important for reaching the ethnic and minority communities. The model helped improve exclusive breast-feeding practices by more than five times over areas that did not have any support groups.

The initiative's workplace lactation support programme, implemented in partnership with the General Confederation for Labour and private enterprises throughout Vietnam, helped to set up more than 70 lactation rooms in workplaces of the Government, and the garment and electronics industries.

Despite significant progress being made, experts said that more work remains to be done to improve child nutrition in Vietnam. They added that the successful interventions need to be sustained and scaled up to reach more people in more provinces throughout the country.

Health financing is still needed to ensure that all families receive proper IYCF and nutrition counselling. The rates of early initiation of breast feeding and continued breast feeding with complementary feeding until a child is 24 months old, still need to improve.-VNA