The number of children suffering from malnutrition in Cambodia has been reducing in recent years; however, the rate of progress remains unacceptably slow and continues to threaten the development of human capital.
What is happening in child nutrition?
32% of children are stunted, 24% are underweight, and 10% are wasted. This is a very high prevalence of malnutrition, and reveals an equity gap in Cambodia with stunting being more common in rural areas (34%) than urban areas (24%) and is less common among the children of more educated mothers. Levels of stunting vary widely among provinces in Cambodia, ranging from 18% in Phnom Penh to 44% in Preah Vihear and Stung Treng. In addition to geography, poverty also plays a major role in how malnutrition impacts the population, with children from households in the lowest wealth quintile more likely to be malnourished than children from households that are wealthier.
One of the main contributors to malnutrition in Cambodia is diarrhea as result of poor sanitation in households and in community areas (such as pre-schools and primary schools). When children experience repeated bouts of diarrhea, accompanied by food that has low nutritional value, they can become chronically malnourished and have increased vulnerability to infectious diseases.
Many children are also born with poor nutrition due to the high percentage of pregnant women suffering from anemia (53%), which leads to more premature deliveries and low birth weight for babies.v In this way, malnutrition can become an inter-generational burden.