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Hunger levels ‘alarming’, report finds

CAMBODIA is one of 25 countries worldwide facing an “alarming” level of hunger, with dangerous levels of malnutrition and child mortality, according to a report released in the United States yesterday.

Using data gathered from 2003 to 2008, the report – termed the “Global Hunger Index” and produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe – said Cambodia and other countries that received poor index scores needed to focus on improving child undernutrition.

“To reduce child undernutrition, governments should invest in effective nutrition interventions targeted to mothers and children,” the report said, recommending improved maternal nutrition during pregnancies, promotion of proper breastfeeding practices and salt iodisation.

The Kingdom ranked 58th out of 84 developing countries measured in the index, and among Asian countries, placed ahead only of India, Bangladesh and Timor-Leste. In creating the index, researchers took into account data on the proportion of undernourished people in a country, the prevalence of underweight children and the child mortality rate.

Heng Taykry, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said challenges outlined in the report were common in developing countries like Cambodia.

“Everywhere, there is hunger,” he said. “[Cambodian] families must work hard to improve their standard of living; this is not a challenge just for the health ministry, but for the whole country.”

Almost 40 percent of Cambodian children are chronically malnourished, according to the United Nations World Food Programme, and one-third of Cambodians are considered “food insecure”, while 26 percent of the overall population is undernourished.

The United Nations Millenium Development Goal for child mortality calls for Cambodia’s baseline rate of 124 deaths per 1,000 live births to drop to 41 by the year 2015. To meet the locally adopted target for the goal, the mortality rate would need to fall to 66 deaths per 1,000 live births.

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