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Kingdom faces double threat in child nutrition

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Health Ministry officials launch food-based dietary guidelines for school children in the Kingdom on Monday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Kingdom faces double threat in child nutrition

While Cambodia has long struggled with child malnutrition, the Kingdom is also starting to feel some of the same health burdens developed nations are facing, such as obesity and other diet-related noncommunicable diseases, which the government hopes to address with a new health class curriculum on balanced diets.

The ministries of health and education on Monday announced a new set of guidelines that will be incorporated in the curricula for primary and secondary schools. Students will learn about the food pyramid, balanced diets and tracking their growth.

A working group tasked with developing the guidelines surveyed more than 2,000 students across the country. The survey found 33 percent were stunted, 15 percent were wasted and 35 percent were underweight. However, the summary notes that an “important issue to consider is that children who are stunted are at risk of becoming overweight and obese later in life”.

“Cambodia is experiencing the double-burden of malnutrition,” said Yumiko Minami, country representative for the Foundation for International Development/Relief. “Over nutrition [overweight, obesity] among children in Cambodia is increasing like neighbouring countries . . . while under-nutrition among children . . . is still a big issue.”

Chay Kimsotheavy, director of the Ministry of Education’s Department of Health Education, said the ministry will start training teachers next year and will implement the guidelines in 2019.

It is unknown how many teachers will be trained and how much it will cost to implement the guidelines, though a “challenge is unavoidable”, Kimsotheavy said, noting that the ministry needed more personnel, as well as financial and technical support.

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