Cambodia has reached its millennium development goal of reducing by half the number of people who suffer from hunger, but more needs to be done to make sure that the population now receives the right nutrients, officials said on World Food Day Wednesday.
Making the announcement to a crowd of about 600 students and farmers at the Cambodian Agriculture Research and Development Institute in Phnom Penh, Minister of Agriculture Ouk Rabun did not say how many people suffered from hunger, which is measured by the proportion of people whose calorie intake is lower than required.
“Regarding food security, Cambodia successfully met the first millennium development goal in fighting poverty and hunger,” the minister said.
From 1990 to 1992, 39.4 percent of Cambodians were undernourished, a figure that was brought down to 15.4 percent last year, according to figures by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Access to a balanced diet, however, was still limited, Mr. Rabun said Wednesday.
“People’s health depend on firm and sustainable food security and a regular and healthy nutrition,” he said.
About 40 percent of children under the age of 5 are stunted—a symptom of malnourishment and underdevelopment of the brain—and 55 percent suffer from anemia, according to the 2010 Demographic Health Survey.
Gianpietro Bordignon, country director for the World Food Program, said on the sidelines of the event to mark World Food Day that a holistic approach needed to be in place to make sure that everyone was able to get vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy development.
Healthy foods in a larger variety needed to be produced and sold at local markets at an affordable price, he said. Fortifying rice, oil or fish sauce with nutrients and minerals would help solve the problem, however, education on the importance of the right diet was necessary to achieve a long-term change.
“You have to work on all these elements and it’s very complex because when you talk about this you also have to talk about food habits. Food education is important so that people are aware about which foods they should spend money on,” Mr. Bordignon said.
Malnourishment in the womb and as a baby has lasting negative impacts, he said.
“If you miss the first 1,000 days, you can’t catch up…. That’s why you need to change the education of future mothers, so that they are educated enough to…manage their families, their children and their nutrition,” Mr. Bordignon said.