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Innovative and locally-made fish snack effective to treat severe acute malnutrition among children in Cambodia

©UNICEF Cambodia/2017/Chansereypich Seng
© UNICEF Cambodia/2017/Chansereypich Seng

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, 22 February 2017: The Government of Cambodia released today the results of field testing of the effectiveness of Num Trey, new fish-based food products which aim to treat and prevent malnutrition among children and women in Cambodia.

Num Trey (fish snack in Khmer) was designed using locally available ingredients through collaboration between the Cambodian Department of Fisheries Post-harvest Technologies and Quality Control (DFPTQ) of the Fisheries Administration, UNICEF and IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, France). Num Trey has been produced by Vissot Co. Ltd., a company certified by the Ministry of Health to produce micronutrient-enriched local food products.

Num Trey has two distinctive food supplement products: i) a therapeutic food to treat severe acute malnutrition among children; and ii) a snack to prevent malnutrition among children. Following two years of development and research, the final results showed that the locally produced ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition is as effective as the internationally produced RUTF. No differences were observed between the two in their effectiveness and therefore Num Trey RUTF can be a solution for Cambodia in addressing severe acute malnutrition.

Ms. Debora Comini, UNICEF Representative to Cambodia, said: “Good nutrition at the start of a child’s life from conception until he or she reaches 2 years old sets a solid foundation for the child’s healthy growth and their intellectual and physical development. Improving nutrition among children will yield long-lasting benefits, including economic benefits, not only for the children themselves but for the entire society.”

Malnutrition among children is still prominent in Cambodia, with 32 per cent of under-five children stunted (when a child is too short for his or her age); 10 per cent acutely malnourished; and 24 per cent underweight. Malnutrition causes approximately 4,500 child deaths annually, which accounts for roughly one third of all child deaths in Cambodia.

“Since several years, bilateral donors are launching major grants which are supporting the improvement of many health facilities including the screening for malnutrition of children under five years of age. This will be, therefore, providing significant support to the initiative to treat all those severely acutely malnourished children in many hospitals across the country.” said H.E. Prof. Eng Hout, Secretary of State, Ministry of Health.

“Over five years, the procurement of therapeutic products could represent a lion’s share of cost for severe acute malnutrition treatment and it is essential to find a local and more accessible solution to treat those children,” added H.E. Prof. Hout.

Malnutrition in Cambodia disproportionately affects disadvantaged and marginalized families. Children from the poorest families are four times less likely to receive a minimum acceptable diet than children from the wealthiest families and children living in rural areas are two times less likely to do so than those living in urban areas.

Dr. Frank Wieringa from the IRD said: “Fish is contributing to more than 80 per cent of total animal protein intake of Cambodian households. Animal-source foods are vital for improving micronutrient status and growth.

“While milk and other dairy ingredients are expensive in Cambodia because they are imported, making them unsuitable as the main protein source for a locally manufactured snack, fish is abundant and is cheap. We wanted to introduce a product that is easily affordable for poor families.”

Testing and analysis of the effectiveness of the second Num Trey product, the fish-snack developed for the prevention of malnutrition, is still ongoing.

Num Trey is packaged in the form of a wafer that is commonly produced and eaten in Cambodia, thereby making it more appealing and palatable to consumers. In addition, coconut powder is added to improve the smell and taste. Over the coming months, UNICEF and its partners will work on scaling up the production of the local ready-to-use therapeutic food for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition to ensure sufficient production for in-country needs.

For more information, please contact:

• DFPTQ, Fisheries Administration, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia. E-mail: dfptq2016@gmail.com Tel/Fax: (+855) 23 224800.

• Sok Daream, Fisheries Administration, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia. E-mail: daream.sok@gmail.com Mobile: (+855) 92 770678.

• Frank Wieringa, Chargé de Recherche, UMR-204, Nutripass, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Montpellier, France, Email : franck.wieringa@ird.fr

• Iman Morooka, UNICEF Cambodia, Email: imorooka@unicef.org; Mobile: (+855) 92 555 294.

• Bunly Meas, UNICEF Cambodia, Email: bmeas@unicef.org, Mobile: (+855) 12 733 909.

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