The Ministry of Health has developed a strategy called the “Communications Strategy to Change Attitudes to Improve Maternal, Infant and Young Children’s Nutrition in Cambodia” to achieve its goal of reducing the stunting rate to 19 per cent and increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding from birth to six months to 85 per cent by 2030.

The NGO Helen Keller International in Cambodia last week said the Kingdom had succeeded in reducing the stunting rate from 50 per cent in 2000 to 32 per cent in 2014, and improving the nutritional health of new mothers and their children in the last decade. However, the stunting rate was still high when compared to the scale of the country’s economic development, it said.

“This high stunting rate is a factor that threatens and hinders the sustainability of the country’s economic development, human resources and continued growth. Solving this problem is necessary if Cambodia is to achieve its sustainable development goals by 2030,” the NGO added.

Health ministry secretary of state Prak Sophorneary told reporters on April 22 that the ministry – in collaboration with partner organisations such as Helen Keller, UNICEF, World Health Organisation (WHO), and Alive and Thrive – had prepared the new communications strategy and would be launching it soon.

She added that the campaign will create posters and leaflets. The campaign will initially target key areas in seven provinces – Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Kratie, Kampong Chhnang and Koh Kong. The ministry will also launch the campaign in other provinces, with the assistance of partner organisations.

“We are targeting these provinces for this project as the results of a recent survey determined that they have the highest rates of malnutrition. These areas have a high number of indigenous people,” she said.

The focus of the communication strategy is on the golden opportunity of the first 1,000 days of life. It includes information on maternal nutrition and breastfeeding, complementary feeding and promoting the growth and development of infants and young children.

Hou Kroeun, deputy country director of Helen Keller International in Cambodia, said that as a nutrition partner of the ministry, he had given full support to the new strategy, which had been prepared carefully and comprehensively to turn impart knowledge and bring about practical changes in attitudes toward nutrition.

“I hope this campaign will improve the nutritional situation of mothers, infants and young children in the future,” he said.

Kroeun added that scientific studies have found that relationships to change attitudes through individual and social communications were highly effective at promoting healthy practices and changing people’s habits – in terms of nutritional choices as well as other health attitudes.