Nutrition plays a crucial role in children’s overall health and development, especially during the early stages of life. In Cambodia, like in many other countries, undernutrition remains a significant public health concern, particularly among women and children. Sanne Sigh, a Danish nutrition specialist living in Cambodia, has been shedding light on the challenges faced in the Southeast Asian country.
Understanding the challenge in Cambodia
Undernutrition is a multifaceted issue with deep-rooted cultural, economic, and health-related factors. According to recent data approximately 18% of women in Cambodia are undernourished. 22% of children under the age of five exhibit underdeveloped growth – an indication of chronic malnutrition. 10% of children in Cambodia are categorized as suffering from acute malnutrition. The complex problem requires a diverse approach to bring about meaningful change.
Working with Nutrix
Sanne’s journey into the world of nutrition and public health took an unexpected turn. During her Masters and later Ph.D., where she found herself working on a project known as Nutrix.
Nutrix is a fish-based waffle snack, developed to provide acutely malnourished children with sufficient energy and nutrients to gain weight and improve overall health. The project began in 2015 and is a collaboration between multiple international organizations. These includes UNICEF, University of Copenhagen and Vissot/Danish Care Foods, among others.
“I became part of a team and we finished developing the product, after which we tested it on 20 children. The entire study was based on 120 children,” Sanne shared about her time working on Nutrix.
Though ScandAsia first announced the launch of the product back in December 2018, the snack to help treat severe acute malnutrition in children in Cambodia, has still not been marketed Sanne shares, as ScandAsia meets her in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Pehn.
“The government has announced that they will buy the product from 2025. The plan is then to phase out similar imported products until 2026,” Sanne shares on the latest development.
Supported by the Ministry of Health, Helen Keller International, has launched a project to treat and care for children with moderate and severe acute malnutrition in Cambodia using Nutrix by Danish Care Foods.
The long-term project is set to run from 2023 to 2027 and is implemented in Takeo, Siem Reap and Kampong Chhnang provinces. The project is expected to treat more than 1,000 children for acute malnutrition in the first year of its implementation.
Still, addressing undernutrition and promoting food and nutrition security in Cambodia is a complex endeavor. Something Sanne has faced during her time in the country.
While challenges persist, various organizations, community health workers, and government agencies are progressing towards combating the enormous problem of malnutrition in Cambodia. With her work in Cambodia, Sanne is working for a brighter, healthier future for women and children in Cambodia.
“To ensure every child and woman’s right to better nutrition, we need to join forces. There is only so little one individual can do. Together, we are stronger and can do better for the people of Cambodia,” says Sanne.