More than 90 per cent of Cambodian adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 have changed their eating habits and become more knowledgeable about nutrition, according to Save the Children.

The NGO reports young people have changed their eating habits from high-fat or sweetened beverages to more balanced diets.

Its press release issued on Sunday said the organisation has been implementing the “Saving Children’s Lives in Vulnerable Communities in Cambodia” project since 2018.

The project’s goal is to improve nutritional outcomes of 5,000 teenagers across seven public schools in two districts in Kampong Cham province.

The project has developed an effective and innovative youth-friendly nutrition and social behaviour change package for Health Centre Staff and School Adolescent Agents for Nutrition (SAAN), according to the release.

A 2014 Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey reported adolescents make up nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population, yet it is the most neglected group in terms of meeting specific nutrition and health needs. More than a quarter of Cambodian girls are underweight, and about half are anaemic.

Save the Children country director Elizabeth Pearce said the three-year project has made some impressive achievements and significantly increased nutrition knowledge.

Pearce said more than 90 per cent of the young people could name at least five of the 10 nutritious food types compared with 22 per cent when the project started.

“We have seen significant changes in behaviour, such as eating breakfast, moving away from junk and sugary foods and drinks, and eating more balanced meals that include fruits and vegetables,” Pearce said.

“Adolescent nutrition should be integrated into school curriculums and government nutrition strategies and policies, including the action plan and guidelines to implement National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition (NSFSN),” she said.

She said the goal is to work closely with local and national-level authorities to extend the project nationwide in schools, health centres and communes.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport spokesman Ros Soveacha told The Post on Sunday the ministry congratulated Save the Children on the accomplishment.

Soveacha said the ministry will continue to improve the lives of parents and young children and address malnutrition.

He said they will be implementing an inter-ministerial prakas on the implementation of cash support programmes for pregnant women and children under two years of age.

“Good nutrition contributes to improving the quality of learning and teaching and improves the quality of life.

“The ministry has integrated the meaning of nutrition and health education into the curriculum and continues to welcome cooperation with all stakeholders to improve nutrition and the academic health of students and educators in all its forms,” Soveacha said.