Nutrition Skills Help Cambodian Families Weave a Healthier Future
In Tatrav Village, located near Siem Reap province’s famous temple town, mothers and grandmothers use a rudimentary log bridge to cross a stream swollen by the monsoon rains; their babies and toddlers perched high above their shoulders. As they walk towards the village meeting place for the community nutrition session, they pass a notice board made out of woven palm leaves.
At first glance, the handmade board wouldn't look out of place in a souvenir shop. However, the board serves as a ‘nutrition map’ of the village with each intricate pattern representing life-saving information for the impoverished community.
On closer inspection, one would see that the homes with malnourished children are marked with red flags. Orange flags mark the homes where nutrition is improving and homes with healthy children are marked by green flags. In a commune, a group of 6 villages, where 50 percent of children have been classified as acutely malnourished, this board maps both the scale of the problem and the significant progress that has been made towards resolving it.
Plan's Work in Tatrav Village
When Plan’s nutrition team first arrived in the village, many families were living on a diet which consisted of rice, salt, and fermented or dried fish. Even though vegetables were locally available, people didn’t know how to cook them. As a result, they were often sold at the market to support their meager incomes.
Plan partnered with Neary Khmer to provide families with hygiene and child nutrition training, moving away from a limited diet to one which includes eggs, local vegetables, and meat. A focus on boiling and filtering water to make it safe to drink reduced the number of cases of waterborne diseases that had negatively impacted child nutrition and health.
Less than 12 months later, the number of malnourished children has dropped from thirty percent to twenty percent.
Small Steps Lead to Big Changes
Mi Yoeun, a local villager, did not realize that she could make nutritious food for her son using locally-available ingredients. When her husband abandoned her, the 25-year-old mother was forced to focus on farm work for her survival. She wasn't able to learn about preparing nutritious food for her first son early enough; as a result he became severely malnourished.
A few months ago, Mi Yoeun attended a Plan-supported community session on child nutrition. Armed with this new information, she saw that it was both possible and easy to improve her 8-month-old son's diet. After the session, she made the simple but powerful changes in his diet that have led to a 2-pound weight increase.
"Now we know tasty ways to cook vegetables, meat and eggs we are eating better and our children are stronger and smarter," she says.