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Improving the dietary intakes and nutritional status of infants and young children through improved food security and complementary feeding counseling

25/03/2015

The European Union funded MALIS project implemented by FAO and the General Directorate of Agriculture is nearing completion after more than three years of work in the target provinces of Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear. The scope of nutrition education activities in MALIS has included increasing the general awareness of good nutrition for rural families; promoting more diverse and nutritious diets; continued breastfeeding and improved complementary feeding; as well as training in basic practices relating to hygiene and food safety.

Mothers and caregivers of children aged 5-18 months (on recruitment) were targeted in a nutrition education program run over nine weeks in selected villages. During the course of the project, almost 1,400 mothers and caregivers in 64 villages were given training in improved complementary feeding, hygiene and food safety.

The joint FAO/Justus Liebig University Giessen IMCF project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, has worked alongside MALIS to assess the impact of nutrition education and food security activities on the health of children. Preliminary results show that there was increased capacity amongst the trainers and the volunteers working at commune and village level, as well as an increase in knowledge and evidence of practice change amongst mothers and caregivers. This resulted in significant improvements in the quality of diet especially among children of the targeted age group (6-23 months).

Mr Iean Russell, FAO Project Manager for MALIS, explained that ‘it is critical that we achieve national and local level coordination of efforts to combat child malnutrition, as limited education and lack of resources are continuing challenges for nutrition education in the target districts.’

Despite the intensive education effort, awareness campaigns and distribution of kitchen equipment on a wide scale through training and agricultural fairs, mothers and caregivers frequently cite lack of time, kitchen equipment, food resources and family support as reasons for not cooking improved complementary food for their young children. 

Ms Nina Brandstrup, FAO Representative for Cambodia states that ‘efforts to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition must be a priority effort in the several provinces identified in the latest CDHS study as having relatively high rates of malnutrition in children.’ 

The results presented by the IMCF Research Project show evidence of behavioural change and some indications of improved health in the target areas, but these changes need to occur in every village and commune in the vulnerable areas.  This requires a scaling up of nutrition education, integrated with efforts to produce more nutritious foods in the home garden or farm, better hygiene practices, food safety and clean water supplies.  The approach must be one of comprehensive improvement not a mosaic of diverse, small scale efforts. 

According to Ms Fiona Ramsey, Counsellor and Head of Co-operation of the EU Delegation to Cambodia, ‘the European Union and its member states, especially the Federal Republic of Germany, have made a long term commitment to support the Royal Government of Cambodia in the fight against child malnutrition in Cambodia.’ She added ‘A better understanding of ‘what works’ for nutrition through applied research and rigorous monitoring and evaluation, is needed for the identification of effective policies and actions for nutrition in different sectors and for the scaling-up of interventions in line with general principles of aid effectiveness’.

When: 26 March 2015
What time: 8:30AM - 16:30 PM
Where: Sunway Hotel, Phnom Penh

For more information contact:
Mr Iean Russell, Project Manager MALIS, FAO Cambodia.  iean.russell@fao.org   012-878-027
Ms Theresa Jeremias, Nutrition Officer, FAO, Rome. theresa.Jeremias@fao.org
Ms Botumroath Lebun, Communications Officer, FAO Cambodia. botumroath.lebun@fao.org