Combating childhood malnutrition in Cambodia and Myanmar
Over a number of years, GRET has established a programme for combating malnutrition in children aged between 6 and 24 months old in Cambodia and Myanmar through the local production and distribution of supplemental food, in addition to increasing awareness of good food, hygiene and healthcare practices. With our support, following successful initiatives in Madagascar and trials in West Africa, GRET will be able to make the actions it has launched in Asia sustainable through a pilot scheme trialling an innovative female entrepreneurship model, centred on implementing a system for selling ready-to-eat fortified porridge in the vulnerable neighbourhoods of Phnom Penh and Yangon.
Nine million children under the age of five die in the world every year. Malnutrition is the direct or indirect cause of nearly one in two deaths. In most cases, it is due to poor-quality food and unsuitable hygiene and healthcare practices.
Cambodia and Myanmar have been identified as two countries where the nutritional conditions of children are particularly alarming. In Cambodia, 44% of children under the age of 5 have stunted growth and 29% are moderately to severely underweight. In Myanmar, 41% of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition.
The overall goal of the programme is to improve the female entrepreneurship model trialled in the pilot scheme with a view to reducing malnutrition in two underprivileged districts of Phnom Penh (Stung Mean Chey) and Yangon (Shwepythar). The activities are being implemented based on existing programmes:
- In Cambodia: The Nutrikhmer programme was launched in 2010 to prevent the long-term rise of malnutrition in children aged 6-23 months old through the local production and provision of supplemental food in addition to quality breast milk to low income families. Bobor Rong Roeung, a children's cereal made from raw materials that are as a priority purchased locally, is sold at a price that is affordable to the majority of the population through traditional distribution networks.
- In Myanmar: The NutriMyanmar programme was launched in 2012 to trial innovative approaches to fighting childhood malnutrition in rural and urban pilot areas, building awareness of and support for a local enterprise in the production, distribution and promotion of supplemental food.
GRET's initiative is based on the following priority actions:
- Formulating a diagnosis regarding the expectations and perceptions of families in the targeted zones for a ready-to-eat porridge sales service, and completing a feasibility study regarding the adoption of a social entrepreneurial model in the target districts of Phnom Penh and Yangon.
- Supporting the processing and quality control of children's cereal in local production units.
- Strengthening women's skills in production and marketing techniques and supporting the diversification of the range of cereals available. Providing training for the individuals preparing the porridge and for street vendors to teach them proper storage conditions and hygiene standards.
- Strengthening the skills of the female entrepreneurs who receive this training to enable them to manage a small business and to develop innovative sales strategies.
- Purchasing sales equipment and carrying out promotional activities in markets and in the district, using local television channels and radio stations.
- 12 female entrepreneurs (6 in Phnom Penh and 6 in Yangon) are trained and have access to income-generating activity, implementing efficient sales development strategies.
- A sales network including 4 points of sale (permanent and mobile) of fortified porridge is operational in the target districts of Phnom Penh and Yangon.
- 600 families suffering from malnutrition affecting 1,200 infants aged 6-24 months old know about the porridge, purchase it thanks to the promotional action taken and are aware of good nutritional habits to be followed for their children.
GRET's programme is aligned with the national policies in force in both countries promoting proper nutrition and specifically highlighting instruction in good food, hygiene and healthcare practices. The involvement of municipal councils, community leaders and healthcare services in the programme consolidates this socially-motivated economic mechanism. Support for the popularisation of this fortified porridge and increasing knowledge of it among parents improves wide-scale awareness of the qualities of these locally-produced children's foods, and consolidates their distribution network on a long-term basis.