Mrs.Neu and Mrs. Saikham live in Phonthong village in upland Laos. Mrs. Saikham has had the opportunity and support from her family to complete her higher education and is now a teacher. Mrs. Neu stopped attending school after the first few grades of primary school. Although, their respective home situation is very different, both their children are affected by malnutrition. SNV's ENUFF project works with young mothers and their families in Phonthong and many other communities in upland Laos to improve the situation.- by Prianka Basnet
Mrs. Neu gave birth to her first child at the age of 19, baby Nong. Her pregnancy was not an easy one as she suffered from headaches, constant backaches and leg cramps. Being one of the poorer families in the village, she had to continue with the farm work and carry heavy loads during her pregnancy. It has been 5 months since she has given birth but the stomach aches continue. Her breasts are underdeveloped and she is unable to produce any milk. She says that during her pregnancy her mother advised her not to eat too much.
Due to extreme weather events, her family's last harvest was barely sufficient to last them until the next harvest (7 months). Their means of income are low and as a result, they rarely consume meat and the few chickens they own they will sell off to earn some income. As a result, the family mostly eats rice, bamboo shoots and greens they have foraged from the forest. Unable to breastfeed, Mrs. Neu has been feeding her child infant formula mixed with rice water. “I cannot afford to buy a box of infant formula every month, so I mix it with rice water and feed her.” From her diet it is evident that baby Nong is not getting sufficient nutrients.
Mrs. Neu had not attended any of the ENUFF project health sessions before. Today however she decided to stay back so she could attend the workshop.