Cambodia's tragic history has prevented use of any trend analysis since the country has been recovering from more than 20 years of civil strife. Essentially, there is a general lack of specific nutrition information on Cambodia but current information on crop production and child nutritional status is being collected more and more now that the focus of the government and its counterparts has turned towards development rather than relief.

According to the findings of the MICS survey, malnutrition in children 6-59 months old continues to be a major problem in Cambodia based on the three commonly used indicators. The prevalence of underweight was 52%, that of stunting was 56% and 13% of children were wasted. Although all provinces were affected by child malnutrition there were important provincial differences in the prevalences of the three anthropometric indicators. The prevalence of underweight ranged from 41% in Banteay Meanchey to 63% in Stung Treang which also showed the highest prevalence of wasting (16%). The prevalence of stunting ranged from 40% in Phnom Penh to 70% in Kampong Spueu. The prevalence of underweight, stunting and wasting were found to be higher in boys, therefore indicating that girls had slightly better nutritional status. The prevalence of overweight was low in all with Kampong Spueu, having the highest rate.

Women also seemed to be affected by malnutrition. According to the UNICEF/WFP survey, the prevalence of women 15 to 49 years old with a BMI<18.5 kg/m2 was 28.5%. As for children, the analysis by food economy zone showed that women in the forest were the most affected by CED with 60% having a BMI<18.5 kg/m2.

The FAO Sixth World Food Survey estimated that the DES in Cambodia did not cover the requirements of 29% of the population in 1990-92, compared to 13% in 1969-71, therefore indicating that the proportion of the population which is "undernourished" in terms of food inadequacy has increased. The problem is not only availability, but also access and utilization of food, as well as a lack of diversity in the diet of the typical Cambodian. As a consequence, there are high rates of night blindness in children 24-59 months (3.6%) and pregnant women (10%). The national weighed total goitre rate was 12% in school children aged 8 to 12 years. The provinces of Siem Reap, Ratanakini, Bantey Meanchey and Svay Rieng were found to have severe IDD problems with more than 30% of children 8-12 years old affected. According to a non-nationally representative survey conducted in 13 provinces the overall rates of anaemia in children 6-59 months (n=1348) were extremely high-82 percent. Moreover, 69% of women 15-49 years old (n=994) and 74% of pregnant women (n=97) were classified as anaemic.

The under five mortality rate was 90 live births in 1996 the infant mortality rate was 108 and the maternal mortality rate was estimated to be 473 / 100,000 in 1990. These rates, together with an adult female illiteracy rate of 58%, are the highest in the South East Asian region.

The nutrition of the typical Cambodian will improve with better access to health care, diversification of diet and of food production, education for mothers on the best child care practices, and access to safe water and sanitation at the local level. Poverty and malnutrition are found throughout the country but are much worse in certain locations. However, with the increasing stability of the government and support of the international community, improvements in production, consumption and utilisation will continue, resulting in a stronger, healthier generation of Cambodians.

© FAO 2010