At CCF, the fight against malnutrition continues
“Child nutrition still lagging in Cambodia,” ran the headline on the front page of the Phnom Penh Post two weeks ago. Given that malnutrition still contributes to approximately 45% of child deaths in Cambodia, this depressingly familiar headline should worry everyone. In fact, it’s the reason that we’ve just opened the latest outpost in our community-wide Food Program.
The latest research does show that Government and NGO’s efforts to tackle the issue have successfully reduced the incidence of stunted growth in children from 45% to 32% over recent years. But 32% remains a shocking number, and it must be addressed.
At Cambodian Children’s Fund, reducing the level of malnutrition in our communities is a core part of what we do. Lack of adequate nutrition can have a profound impact on the physical and mental capabilities of our students, a block to them fulfilling their potential. We tackle this problem in many ways, but two are particularly important.
The Critical Nutrition Program targets severely malnourished children, ensuring their continued survival and growth through the provision of personalized nutritious diets. 217 children benefited from this program last month alone.
Critical Nutrition Program Case Study
Two year old Panha arrived at CCF in a profound state of malnourishment. Abandoned by his parents, his mental and physical health was so severely impacted that he was unable to sit or recognize that others were even in the same room as him. He barely seemed alive.
7 months later, after a program of targeted nutrition, Panha is a changed child. He is full of smiles and laughter, and with some assistance he recently took his first steps. His mental development is even more remarkable than his physical development. Without the Critical Nutrition program, Panha would have faced a very different future.
The Food Program,meanwhile, provides meals for children in the community who do not receive adequate nutrition at home. We monitor very carefully to ensure that the program reaches the right at-risk children, by measuring their BMI on a regular basis. We have recently expanded the geographic reach of the food program to one of our schools – which now serves 50-70 meals per night – to ensure that the needs of all of the children in our community are met. Despite this, the overall number of meals required per night has dropped in recent years from 600 to 350 per night, reflecting the impact that the food program has made and indeed the gradual reduction of malnutrition in Cambodia.
As well as providing nutritious meals each night for hungry families, the Food Program also provides an opportunity for the students in our Leadership Program to give back to their community. These students organize and implement the program each night, from assessing the health of children to serving food and assisting with hygiene.
As an organization, our goal has always been to end the suffering in our community with the current generation. We see our nutrition programs as a crucial part of this battle, and with the support of our funders we will keep fighting until there is no need for any food programs at all.
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