T HE Ministry of Health (MoH) last week launched a three-month project to test the
effectiveness of iron and folate supplements on Cambodian women after a survey showed
high iron deficiencies in women and children.
A nationwide survey conducted by the MoH suggested that as many as 80 percent of
pregnant women, 65 percent of women who are not pregnant, and 75 percent of children
under five have insufficient iron in their diet.
"Compared with other countries in the region, the deficiency rate here is very
high," said Dr Suttilak Smitasiri, consultant on the project.
Around 11,000 garment workers of reproductive age from eight garment factories near
the capital were chosen by the MoH to take part in the project.
Dr Ouk Poly, director for nutrition at the maternal and child health center in the
MoH, explained that many women of reproductive age lose iron through blood loss during
menstruation and when giving birth. On the strength of a talk on iron deficiency
given by him at a seminar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Japanese government provided
$100,000 in funding.
As part of an awareness raising strategy, the MoH released a promotional song exhorting
"Young Khmer women, female workers and schoolgirls" to take a "Red
Rose" supplement weekly.
Iron is necessary for the oxygenation of red blood cells, while folic acid helps
with the production of these cells.
Dr Poly said workers would undergo a medical check-up after three months to determine
"If that shows good results we will start providing supplements to other women
in the community and schoolgirls," he said.