Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly yesterday said that malnutrition among children is affecting the country’s socio-economic development.
Speaking at the National Conference on WASH and Nutrition Integration held at a hotel in the capital, Mr Chhay Ly also said that according to NGO reports, the malnutrition problem costs millions of dollars to address.
The conference, “Cambodia’s Experience: Results of Implementing the Integrated program for Better Nutrition”, was held to discuss ways to eliminate malnutrition, especially among children.
Mr Chhay Ly said that although Cambodia has achieved high economic growth of about 7 percent over the past two decades, the government still has more to do to tackle malnutrition among children.
He said that addressing the problem requires the participation of all relevant ministries and institutions, development partners and also the private sector.
“Malnutrition among children may affect their future social and economic development because it reduces their intellect and ability to absorb knowledge,” he said. “That is why the government is urging officials at all levels to continue implementing steps to eliminate malnutrition.”
Mr Chhay Ly said that malnutrition also weakens children who become more prone to diseases.
He said that lack of hygiene compounds the problem and more must be done to make people aware of the importance of washing their hands, especially after going to the toilet, before eating food.
“Studies on the link between hygiene and malnutrition show that children living in communities which have better hygienic and sanitary facilities are less likely to suffer from malnutrition-related diseases than children living in poor hygienic environments,” he said.
Last year, the Education Ministry urged children in schools to wash their hands regularly to protect their health.
It said that washing their hands with soap before meals and after going to the toilet helps reduce diseases.
Poun Chhuy En, a commune chief from Kampong Chhnang province, yesterday said after the conference that the authorities keep educating the people, including parents with small children, to always wash their hand with soap.
“Some children in rural areas do not bother to wash their hands or practice hygiene and that is why the authorities must keep reminding them to do so,” she said.
The latest survey on Cambodia’s population and health in 2014, showed that one in three children under five years old suffers from malnutrition.
According to the research team of the Agricultural and Rural Development Ministries in cooperation with UNICEF, in 2013, Cambodia’s national nutritional deprivation cost the country over $266 million annually or equivalent to 1.7 percent of the gross domestic product, which affects the country’s development.