The government and several UN agencies are scheduled to launch a public outreach campaign today on improving nutrition for children and mothers, officials and UN staff said yesterday, adding that the program would focus on families in Kompong Speu and Svay Rieng provinces.
The three-year, $5 million program funded by the Spanish government aims to reduce under-nutrition among infants, pregnant women and lactating mothers, according to a statement from the government’s Council for Agricultural and Rural Development.
CARD said the program aimed to tackle high levels of child and maternal malnutrition, which it said contributed to the high maternal and child mortality rates in the country.
A survey by the National Institute of Statistics found in 2008 that, among children under 5 in Cambodia, 39.5 percent were chronically malnourished, 28.8 percent were underweight and 8.9 percent were acutely malnourished.
These levels of malnutrition, CARD said, contributed to the fact that “Cambodia has one of the highest child mortality rates in the region,” adding that the registered 83 deaths per 1,000 live births in Cambodia “equates to more than 30,000 deaths per year among children below the age of 5.”
CARD said it would implement the program with the Ministry of Health and three other ministries, in cooperation with Unicef, the World Health Organization and four other UN agencies.
The UN Resident Coordinator’s office said yesterday that a national education campaign would start through the media today to educate the public about improved infant and child feeding, and feeding supplements necessary for pregnant women and women who have just given birth.
Ung Kim Eang, Unicef’s national coordinator for the program, said that in Kompong Speu and Svay Rieng province the program would also pilot an approach in which local government officials, health workers and NGOs work together to educate and support all families there that are vulnerable to under-nutrition.
He said the program would educate families on the importance of child nutrition, breastfeeding and complementary feeding, and he added malnourished families would also be selected to receive direct food support from local health clinics.
“There will be a comprehensive package of nutrition intervention in the two provinces,” he said.
Heng Taykry, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said the program would be key in addressing the issue of improving child and maternal nutrition.
“It is a really important program,” Mr Taykry said. “We pay high attention to child and maternal health. We consider it a priority issue.”