Despite being a nation that exports its rice surplus, too many children in Cambodia suffer from malnutrition and debilitating diseases. Malnutrition causes about a third of all child deaths in Cambodia. Worse, about 40 percent of children in Cambodia suffer from stunted growth, according to a 2010 Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey.
In the nation’s capital of Phnom Phen, more than an estimated 20,000 children suffer from homelessness and hunger. Yet, the Cambodian government is incapable of solving the problem, or even improving the situation.
Fortunately, you can sponsor a child in Cambodia and help ensure it receives the best possible nutrition and chance at a happy life. The need for help is great, and here are four reasons why:
First Two Years Are Critical
The first 1,000 days of a child’s life, is the most important for its development and growth, including 80 percent of brain development. But, when faced with malnutrition, the child’s mental and physical development often becomes stunted and does not properly develop mentally or physically.
Cambodia has about 15.8 million citizens, with 1.76 million under the age of 5, according to the U.S. Aid for International Development (USAID). (https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/global-health/nutrition/countries/cambodia-nutrition-profile) Nearly a third of those children suffer from stunted growth, and about 24 percent of Cambodian children are underweight.
USAID also indicates about more than 175,000 Cambodian children under age 5 are suffering from the effects of acute malnutrition, while 560,000 are suffering from the effects of chronic malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition occurs when a child is much shorter than he or she should be at a particular age. Sadly, once the child reaches age 2, the ill effects of malnutrition become permanent.
In Cambodia and other nations suffering high rates of childhood hunger and malnutrition, the primary causes are many. Poor health care, a lack of food availability, and environments that are unhealthy are among the top drivers of childhood malnutrition. In Cambodia, malnutrition due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies affects many children well into their teens, and often times permanently.
Effects of Malnutrition
In addition to stunting growth and development, a child’s cognitive abilities are lessened when suffering from malnutrition. Children suffer much greater risks of disease and death, and the condition often becomes genetic and passed on to newborns by their mothers. The World Health Organization says deficiencies in micronutrients are among the top 10 causes of death around the world.
In Cambodia, about 40 percent of children suffer from stunted growth, which is among the worst rates anywhere. As those children grow into adults, the long-term effects of malnutrition cause them to be slower learners, have poor work performance, lower productivity, and less earnings than healthier counterparts.
High Cost of Malnutrition
The Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey shows financial losses due to malnutrition cost Cambodia between $250 million and $400 million per year, which represents about 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals alone cost the nation an estimated $134 million per year in lost gross domestic product.
Help Is Available
While the situation might appear dire, many helpful organizations and national governmental programs around the globe help to alleviate the causes and effects of malnutrition in Cambodia. Your assistance with a timely donation or long-term pledge of virtually any amount can help to feed and protect Cambodia’s vulnerable children.
Many helpful programs do more than simply provide food. They teach communities about proper healthcare and nutrition, and help to provide nutritional supplements that can help infants and children grow into healthy adults.