Prime Minister Hun Manet has called for the devlopement of community childcare centres in factories to facilitate adequate breastfeeding among the children of factory workers.

“We must assist workers who face difficulties in caregiving, and community childcare centres and kindergartens are the answer.

“So I want to create community childcare centres or kindergartens in factory premises, but not on the factory floor, which may affect babies or children’s health,” Manet said.

The prime minister expressed his concerns during a meeting with roughly 20,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district on August 29.

Manet urged closer collaboration between the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, along with employer and worker representatives.

Chum Sam Veasna, programme director of Helen Keller International-Cambodia, endorsed the importance of establishing childcare centres in factories.

Veasna said such areas were crucial in in ensuring young children had the best start in life, and highlighted the positive impact of nursing on infant health and disease resistance.

“Facilities for breastfeeding are vital. They enable mothers to bring their infants to work, promoting the child’s health through adequate breast milk intake.

“This aligns with recommendations from national experts and the World Health Organization (WHO),” he said.

He underscored that newborns up to six months should be breastfed, while Cambodia’s labour law grants only three months of maternity leave. Numerous factories lack appropriate spaces for feeding.

“Daycares would empower garment workers to nurture their infants while working,” he said.

Touch Ser, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), praised the government’s intent to establish such services, but called for a comprehensive assessment.

She voiced concerns about potential health repercussions due to exposure to adverse weather and heat when transporting toddlers to premises within factory zones.

“While factory-based infant-care centres for breastfeeding are commendable, transportation challenges exist, as workers often reside far from the factories. The well-being of the infants during their commute must be ensured to mitigate health threats,” she said.

Nevertheless, she acknowledged the value of such establishments, which would grant workers more time to feed their offspring and reduce the expenses incurred in purchasing infant formula.

“To minimise risks for infants, the government and stakeholders should conduct a thorough analysis, acknowledging the workers’ difficulties,” she said.

According to the Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS), the rate of exclusive maternal nursing for babies aged 0 to 5 months declined from 74 per cent in 2010 to 65 per cent in 2014. It fell to just 51 per cent in 2021-2022.