Health and nutrition
UNICEF Country Programme 2019–2023, for every child, good health and nutrition.
No child or mother should suffer or die from preventable causes. Yet this is exactly what happens in Cambodia every year. These deaths can be because a mother did not receive the right care during her pregnancy, or because a baby did not receive postnatal care or proper nutrition in the early months of life. All of this is preventable.
Overall, Cambodia has achieved some remarkable health outcomes, such as a significant decline in child mortality rates and the early achievement of Millennium Development Goal 4 – Reduce Child Mortality.
Between 2000 and 2014, the infant and under-five mortality rates both decreased by over 70 per cent, while the maternal mortality rate decreased dramatically from 472 to 170 deaths for every 100,000 live births. Improved antenatal and postnatal care, better immunization coverage and skilled birth attendance are some of the driving factors behind these improvements.
While this is significant progress, far too many families are still unnecessarily losing their children, especially at birth and during the first month of life. Neonatal mortality accounts for 50 per cent of children who die before their fifth birthday. Rural areas and the more remote north-eastern provinces of Cambodia suffer the biggest losses.
Major causes of child and maternal deaths include a lack of adequate, affordable and accessible health services, poor quality services, poor hygiene, a lack of skilled health staff, and harmful traditional practices.
Lagging behind all other social indicators, malnutrition rates for children under 5 years are among the highest in the region, with 32 per cent of children being stunted (too short for their age) and 10 per cent being wasted (too thin for their height) (CDHS 2014).
Sub-optimal feeding practices, poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), poverty and a mother’s lack of education are the main causes of child undernutrition, which is one of the most significant obstacles to human development. There is disparity here, as 42 per cent of the poorest girls and boys are stunted, compared to 19 per cent of the wealthiest. Breastfeeding is declining and appropriate feeding across age groups remains limited. This has health consequences ranging from undernutrition to children being overweight, which is new to Cambodia. Iodine intake and anaemia also require particular attention.