Helen Keller International in Cambodia is running training sessions on the healthy feeding of infants and children for factory workers in four provinces. It is expected that more than 20,000 workers will benefit from the project.

The international NGO’s project is part of a pilot which will also seek support for establishing breastfeeding rooms with the support of the German development agency GIZ and the Multi-sectoral Food and Nutrition Security Project.

Hou Kroeun, deputy country director of Helen Keller International said a team had run a training from September 5-7 for workers at Berry Apparel (Cambodia) Co., Ltd.

“We are focused on educating workers about the importance of health and nutrition during pregnancy and after delivery. We aim to educate them so their children are healthy, clever and become citizens who will contribute to the national economy in the future,” he said.

Kroeun said that recent scientific studies in other countries have found that similar projects reduced health care costs for mothers and children, and staff absences, and increased productivity.

A 2022 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey showed that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Cambodia had declined alarmingly from 65 per cent in 2014 to 51 per cent in 2022.

Cambodia was committed to increasing the rates of exclusive breastfeeding for infants and children from zero to 6 months to 85 per cent by 2030.

Tung Rathavy, an adviser to the Ministry of Health, said that no studies have yet confirmed the reasons for the decline in breastfeeding rates.

“I think that there are many contributing factors, 76 per cent of new mothers discontinue breastfeeding when they return to work. Linked to this is a lack of support from employers,” she said.

She added that the promotion of powdered milk was also a major factor, as their advertising confused the public, some of whom believed that milk formula is superior to breast milk.

Rathavy urged workers to remember the value of breast milk, saying that it was the best way to guarantee that their children developed to their full potential. It reduced the risk of disease, ensured adequate brain development and normal growth, she explained.