Malnutrition among children is still prominent in Cambodia, with 32 per cent of children under 5 years stunted (when a child is too short for his or her age), 10 per cent wasted (with acute malnutrition) and 24 per cent underweight (CDHS 2014). Malnutrition causes approximately 4,500 child deaths annually, which accounts for roughly one third of all child deaths in Cambodia (Secondary analysis of CDHS 2014 by CARD, UNICEF and IRD).
Children born into impoverished families are almost three times more likely to be stunted in the first years of life than children born into wealthy families (Secondary analysis of CDHS 2014 by MoH, UNICEF and IRD). This disparity is triggered by insufficient consumption of nutritious food, high exposure to infectious diseases and inappropriate feeding practices for children in poor households.
Inadequate nutrition in early childhood can stand in the way of children’s potential to fully develop by undermining their intellectual, mental and physical growth, which can lead to poor learning and limited opportunities for work throughout life. The consequences can even go beyond one generation—malnutrition in mothers is known to cause nutritional deficiencies in children.
The quality of young children’s diets remains a concern in Cambodia, where more than 60 per cent of children aged 6 to 24 months, and about 80 per cent of children aged 6 to 8 months, do not consume the daily minimum acceptable diet (Secondary analysis of CDHS 2014 by MoH, UNICEF and IRD). Disparities exist here as well: 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 (Secondary analysis of CDHS 2014 by MoH, UNICEF and IRD).
UNICEF works closely with the Royal Government of Cambodia to ensure that all children have access to healthy food or supplements and supports the Government to provide appropriate care for malnourished children.
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