In a concerted effort to bolster nutritional initiatives, the Council of Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) recently convened a meeting in Kratie province. With national and provincial leaders in attendance, the gathering aimed to fast-track the formation of a core team, accentuating its focus on nutrition-related interventions in Cambodia.

Chea Samnang, vice-chairman of CARD and co-chairman of the water, sanitation and hygiene technical sub-group (WASH), said the December 6 meeting sought input from all involved parties in drafting documents and establishing a working group to coordinate interventions in water supply, sanitation and nutrition.

Similar meetings have been held in three regions: First in coastal Kampot province with attendees from neighbouring Takeo and Kep; second in the northeastern province of Kratie with participants from adjacent Stung Treng and Ratanakkiri; and third in Siem Reap province with attendees from Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear. The focus was on determining the working group’s composition and defining roles and responsibilities.

“The essential task of the core team, responsible for coordinating water supply, sanitation and nutrition interventions, operates as a mechanism under two technical working groups: the technical team for food security and nutrition, and the technical team for rural water and sanitation,” he said.

Kratie provincial deputy governor Kong Kimny said that concerns regarding nutrition, food safety and access to clean water and sanitation persist, influencing the national economy, society and the well-being of the population.

“Therefore, we need collaboration at national, international and global levels. Establishing a core working group is crucial to address nutrition and food security issues, ensuring enhancements in food security, nutrition and the safety of food and clean water in Cambodia,” he said.

Data from the 2022 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS 2022) reveals a notable improvement in rickets and sclerosis rates for children under 5, declining by 10 per cent from 32 per cent in 2004 to 22 per cent in 2022. However, this rate remains relatively high compared to other countries in the region.

Meanwhile, the emaciation rate appears to have plateaued at 10 per cent between 2014 and 2022. Research data also indicates that insufficient hygiene plays a role in contributing to malnutrition in children.