Health Ministry and Partners Redouble Their Efforts against Malnutrition in Three Provinces

Prak Sophorneary, Health Ministry’s secretary of state speaks to reporter on Jan 27 after the introductory workshop on the treatment and care of children with acute, moderate, and severe malnutrition. Photo by Nhoek Som Oun

PHNOM PENH – Skinny children in Takeo, Siem Reap, and Kampong Chhnang, will soon receive help to gain weight and strength. The three provinces have been selected to implement a new nutrition program – called “treatment and care of children with acute, moderate and severe malnutrition” – carried out by the Ministry of Health and partner organizations.

The project will run from 2023 to 2027.

The three provinces were chosen because most of the children there are underweight or have malnutrition, said Prak Sophorneary, Health Ministry’s secretary of state on Jan 27., at the introductory workshop on the treatment and care of children with acute, moderate, and severe malnutrition.

To come to such a conclusion, the ministry’s experts have measured the weight and forearms of children, using a color-scaled belt that determines whether a child is malnourished or not.

A green color indicates that children are healthy. If it is orange, children have moderate malnutrition. And if red, they have severe malnutrition, which requires the parents or legal representatives to take them to the hospital for treatments, Sophorneary explained.

While the cost of the program is estimated at $25 million in three years, it will be free of charge for its beneficiaries. It will focus on four aspects: food provision, health, social protection, and clean water and sanitary.

Children will receive Nutrix, a Cambodian-made product made from fish, that was specifically developed in 2018 to tackle malnutrition in the country. It contains 28 macronutrients of vitamins and minerals, and is 20 percent cheaper than imported products.

Sophorneary said she hopes that Cambodian children will receive timely treatment to avoid more serious illnesses due to malnutrition.

Helen Keller International’s office in Cambodia, an organization specializing in children’s nutrition, is one of the Ministry’s partners in the program.

It plans to provide nutrition for around 1,000 children in the target areas.

Those comprise Bati and Don Keo districts in Takeo province, Sout Nikum district in Siem Reap province, and Kampong Tralach and Baribo districts in Kampong Chhnang province.

“The treatment and nutrition provision for children is very important because it will help the children with malnutrition. When children are physically and mentally healthy, human resource development of the country will also be good,” Helen Keller International’s Deputy Country Director Hou Kroeun said.

Malnourished children often lack both enough nutrition and attentive care. Malnutrition can lead to limited physical and mental capacity and an increase in mortality rate.

The Ministry of Health has set out that babies under six months old have to be breastfed by their mothers only.

When babies are more than six months, parents then have to make sure their children eat sufficient and good-quality food.

In Cambodia, about 50,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and do not receive treatment. It adds more to the number of deaths or illnesses of children under 5 and limits children’s growth.

In 2021-2022, only around 10 percent of skinny children received proper treatment, according to the report from Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS).


Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Meng Seavmey for Cambodianess.



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