It could save the government more than US$100 million a year, and all it takes is a few spoonfuls a day.
This is the message from UNICEF and its government partners at today’s launch of the campaign to promote complementary feeding for Cambodian children aged between six and 24 months.
According to a 2010 study, 40 per cent of children in the Kingdom below the age of five years were chronically malnourished (stunted), 11 per cent acutely malnourished (wasted) and 28 per cent underweight, UNICEF nutrition specialist Joel Conkle told the Post by email yesterday.
“It is caused by the inability to afford nutritious food, high rates of infectious diseases and inappropriate feeding practices,” Conkle said.
“Child malnutrition today will have serious long-term consequences for the health of the Cambodian population and for its economic development.
The campaign aims to have mothers and caretakers feed their young children home-made, multi-ingredient rice porridge several times a day to support physical and cognitive development.
Currently, when young children are no longer breastfed, they will eat what the rest of the family eats – which is usually too liquidy and low in nutrition to support the child’s growth.
“In Cambodia, it is estimated that the country loses over $146 million in GDP to vitamin and mineral deficiencies every year,” Conkle said.
“Child malnutrition presents a heavy economic burden on Cambodia’s health system in terms of child health outcomes and adult chronic disease.”
UNICEF states that in order to make children healthy, strong and smart, mothers and caretakers need to provide improved complementary feeding to children six to 24 months of age by feeding them rice porridge that contains food items from all three food groups (vegetable, protein and carbohydrates) and ensure that the food is thick enough to stay on a spoon.
The campaign will include a nationwide education and training to deliver this message to all households.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]