A United Nations joint programme on nutrition and food security has helped to significantly promote breastfeeding in six Vietnamese provinces.

The Joint Programme on Integrated Nutrition and Food Security Strategies for Children and Vulnerable Groups in Vietnam is financed by the Spanish Millennium Development Goal Achievement Fund through the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation.

The programme, which was carried out from January 2010 to June this year, targets the northern mountainous provinces of Cao Bang and Dien Bien, the Central Highlands provinces of Dak Lak and Kon Tum, the central coastal province of Ninh Thuan and the Mekong delta province of An Giang.

The 3.55 million USD programme has two components – nutrition, which falls under the responsibility of the Health Ministry, and food security, overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Nguyen Duc Vinh, deputy head of the Health Ministry’s Children and Mother Health Department, who is also the director of the programme management board, said under the programme, 66 groups have been established to assist breastfeeding mothers in An Giang, Dien Bien and Ninh Thuan provinces, helping to raise breastfeeding rates in the localities.

He also told a conference held in Hanoi on July 4 to review the implementation of the programme that in 2012 and the first half of this year, 100 percent of pregnant women in Cao Bang and Dak Lak provinces were given iron supplements.

Farmers in the targeted localities have also received technical support to increase productivity and improve food quality and safety, he said.

According to Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long, the programme is expected to open a new page in the integration of nutrition and food security in Vietnam .

The programme will continue to be implemented in a sustainable manner to improve health and nutrition for Vietnamese mothers and children while contributing to Vietnam ’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

According to the United Nations, underweight and stunted growth rates in Vietnam among children under-five are 19 percent and 32 percent respectively, and it has been estimated that 27 percent of mothers with children under-five suffer from chronic energy deficiency.

Vulnerable groups face the challenges of higher food prices, impacts from the financial crisis and natural disasters.-VNA