Despite 18,400 metric tons of food supplied by the UN’s World Food Program to Cambodia in 2004, a majority of rural women and children still lack a healthy diet, according to a statement marking World Food Day on Sunday.
“In 2004 WFP Cambodia assisted some 1.2 million food insecure people,” according to the statement.
“Micronutrients deficiencies are a major concern: 64 percent of children under 5 years of age and 59 percent of women suffer from iron deficiency anemia, which drains them of energy and makes them more susceptible to disease,” it added.
Although there has been ample rainfall around much of the country this rainy season, October is a critical crossover month, and the next few weeks may determine whether people in some areas have enough to eat, said Uy Sam Ath, Cambodian Red Cross disaster management unit director.
“If the rain stops in one week, it’s bad because the rice planting needs water,” he said. “If the rain continues for two to three more weeks, I think [the harvest] will be good, but not for all,” he said.
The rainfall came late this year, so many farmers planted late, some as recently as a few weeks ago, Uy Sam Ath added.
WFP Cambodia Representative Thomas Keusters said though the early part of 2005 was not good for food security in Cambodia, next year should be better.
“We shouldn’t have the same problems next year that we’ve had this year,” he said.
Kompong Speu, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces are particularly vulnerable to food shortages, Uy Sam Ath said. The CRC was only able to help 10,000 of the 30,000 families requesting food assistance in September and October, most of them in Kompong Speu.
“There’s a very big problem there,” he said.
Government officials denied recent reports in the media that several people had died from a lack of food in one Kompong Speu district. However, some local rights workers noted that malnutrition had likely weakened people’s health to the point where diseases took hold.