Cambodia: Better nutrition for 20,000 children until 2014 Order of Malta - Permanent Observer Mission

24/09/2012

Cambodia: Better nutrition for 20,000 children until 2014

Children aged 6 to 24 months receive nutritional supplements for a healthy development. Photo: Heiko SpechtChildren aged 6 to 24 months receive nutritional supplements for a healthy development. Photo: Heiko Specht

New project addresses causes and consequences of malnutrition for mothers and children

In north-western Cambodia, a region where development has been hampered by decades of war, almost two-thirds of the population is faced with regular food shortages. The result: over 40% of the children under five suffer from malnutrition. “A balanced diet plays a central role in a child’s development – undernourished children develop much slower than healthy children of the same age”, says Julia Brunner, Cambodia expert at Malteser International.  “Malnutrition can cause permanent mental and physical damage”.

A mother’s diet is just as crucial for a child’s development. Pregnant women who are undernourished are at risk for complications during birth; their babies are usually underweight, and their milk lacks nutrients that are vital for their infants.  This sets off a vicious cycle of high child mortality and malnutrition rates.

Last August, Malteser International started a project in the region that will address both the causes and the consequences of malnutrition for mothers and children. With a combination of measures for infants of up to 2 years of age, mothers and pregnant women, the project should cover all dimensions that affect food security. “Having sufficient income to purchase food, sufficient availability and diversity of food in the local market, and sufficient clean water – all of those factors influence a person’s nutritional status”, Brunner says.

Small farmers learn how to improve their yields. Photo: Heiko Specht

Small farmers learn how to improve their yields. Photo: Heiko Specht

Through trainings, small farmers are learning how to increase their yields and diversify their crops by introducing, for instance, peanuts, cassava or mung beans. Families receive support to start their own vegetable garden and to raise small animals and fish. If they produce more than they are able to consume, they receive advice on how to sell their products in the market to generate income.

Malteser International is also improving food use with awareness campaigns in the areas of health, hygiene and nutrition. The teams promote and monitor the distribution of nutritional supplements for children aged between 6 and 24 months which are provided by the provincial health department. So that clean drinking water is readily available, the villages’ water supply systems will be built or repaired.

Since 1999, Malteser International has been working in Cambodia in the areas of emergency relief, health and WASH.