Combating Malnutrition in Cambodia

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SEATTLE, Washington — From 2007 to 2014, the proportion of people living in poverty in Cambodia dropped from 48 percent to 14 percent. While the proportion of the population that qualifies as undernourished fell from 29 percent to 15.3 percent from between 1999 and 2016, there are still approximately 2.3 million Cambodians living with serious food insecurity and poor quality diets. In 2014, 10 percent of children below the age of five suffered from acute malnutrition, and about 32 percent suffered from chronic malnutrition in Cambodia. Today, at least 24 percent of children are malnourished. These numbers have dropped significantly, but food security and nutrition remain crucial issues.

Poverty and Malnutrition in Cambodia

Many factors contribute to malnutrition in Cambodia, including inadequate infant and young child feeding practices as well as maternal undernutrition, obesity and anemia. Poverty and poor sanitation are issues at the root of food insecurity and malnutrition. Targeting these issues in addition to nutrition-specific interventions will help reduce malnutrition.

There is also a gap between the number of people in rural versus urban areas who suffer from malnutrition. Children have a 10 percent higher rate of stunting in rural areas although it varies from province to province. Wasting is also more common in rural areas. Unfortunately, since 80 percent of the population in Cambodia live in rural areas, this affects a large number of the population. This is largely due to the 42 percent of men and women working in agriculture.

Save the Children’s NOURISH Campaign

Currently, there are several initiatives aiming to reduce malnutrition in Cambodia. Feed the Future, Cambodia (2017 – 2022) is an intervention that helps horticulture farmers improve how they grow and market their produce. It also connects them with suppliers and buyers. This improves access to nutritious foods while also stimulating both domestic and international produce markets, expanding sales and creating jobs. Similarly, the Feed the Future Asia Innovative Farmers project (2015-2020) is introducing agricultural technologies into smaller farms in Asia in specific countries including Cambodia

Save the Children led the Cambodia NOURISH program with funding from USAID and the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative from 2014-2019. The program aimed “to improve the nutritional status and well-being of women and children in 555 under-served” areas in the provinces of Battambang, Pursat, and Siem Reap. The project attempted to reduce malnutrition in Cambodia by targeting root causes such as poverty, access to quality food and nutrition services and WASH conditions.

NOURISH did this by creating a demand for health, WASH, agricultural services and products and using the private sector to expand the supply of these products. This program successfully trained 440 Community Agents about health support, agriculture and WASH. It also “trained 194 caregiver groups’ facilitators in integrated nutrition.” NOURISH- trained Community Agents conducted home visits for pregnant women and children below the age of two as well as held monthly community nutrition sessions

The National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition

The Council for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) developed the 2014-2018 National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition (NSFSN) to improve access to safe and nutritious food in Cambodia. This strategy focused on increasing availability and access to food through agricultural and non-farm income generation as well as improving food utilization with nutrition education and increased stability of the food supply through improved social protection and resilience.

CARD has established a new NSFSN for 2019 – 2023 with the goal of reducing the impact of malnutrition in Cambodia by at least 40 percent for the rate of stunted children. Furthermore, it hopes to reduce the rate of wasted children to 5 percent. Additionally, it aims to stabilize or reduce the percentage of overweight and obese children, which is a growing issue in Asian countries.

Combating malnutrition in Cambodia is an important cause. Organizations are working to ensure that pregnant women and children have access to increased amounts of more nutritious foods. By combating malnutrition, the country will also be able to decrease poverty and raise a healthier generation.

Maia Cullen
Photo: UNICEF

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