Over 1,500 pregnant women at health centres in Kampong Thom province are showing positive results from a project led by Helen Keller International Cambodia.

The project, supported by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Vitamin Angel Foundation, replaces iron supplements with multiple micronutrient supplements. Results include enhanced wellbeing, improved sleep, increased appetite for diverse foods, and reduced morning sickness.

Initiated in July 2022, this pilot programme addresses the nutritional needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women. If successful, these supplements will become part of the national programme, provided for free to pregnant women.

Hou Kreun, deputy country director of Helen Keller International, reported that after over a year of testing, more than 1,500 women in Kampong Thom benefited from these supplements. Positive outcomes were observed, including better health and satisfaction with the micronutrient supplements, which were easier to consume compared to iron supplements.

Kreun mentioned that while positive aspects have been noted, ongoing analysis of the final results will continue as the pilot project concludes by the end of 2023. Official study results will be announced in early 2024.

“Once we gather the results from the study, we will develop a strategy for furtherimplementation of providing multiple micronutrient supplements,” Kreun said.

Horm Taing Yu, a participant in the pilot project, shared her positive experience.

“After taking the suppliments, I had restful sleep, was able to eat a diverse range of foods, did not experience morning sickness and felt good.”

She advocated for the availability of these supplements in all health centres, free of charge for pregnant women nationwide.

The pilot project, conducted in three operational districts within Kampong Thom, spanned 24 months. Pregnant women from 20 health centres were divided into two groups. One group received regular iron supplements while the other received multiple micronutrient supplements.

The need for additional micronutrients during pregnancy, such as zinc, folate, iodine, vitamin D, and vitamin B1, was emphasised by Prak Sophorn Neary, secretary of state of the ministry. She highlighted the pilot study as a high priority in promoting nutrition and managing malnourished children.

Extensive global studies have robustly endorsed the benefits of providing multiple micronutrient supplements to expectant mothers. This proactive strategy has the potential to safeguard against a range of risks, including miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature birth, among others.

UNICEF has shed light on the significant role maternal nutrition plays in shaping pregnancy outcomes. By addressing maternal malnutrition, we have the opportunity to transform pregnancy experiences positively. This proactive step not only helps prevent maternal illness and low birth weight but also safeguards the child’s long-term health, fostering a brighter future.