UN suggests plan to improve nation’s food system by 2030

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Boy having a snack in Phnom Penh last June. Heng Chivoan

The UN in Cambodia has outlined a vision and recommended policies for implementation to ensure the existence of sustainable food systems for Cambodia with the goal that by 2030 all Cambodians will have access to a healthy diet of safe food.

According to a 10-page roadmap it released on September 15, in the last two decades Cambodia has accomplished robust economic achievements and significant progress in achieving sustainable and broad-based economic development while reducing the nation’s high poverty rate.

But despite this remarkable progress, it said inequality persisted in the country with 22 per cent of the population still lacking access to a healthy diet.

“Malnutrition rates remain high among children under the age of five, with 32.4 per cent of children stunted, 24 per cent underweight and 10 per cent skinny.

“Poverty and malnutrition rates have varied from one province to another. Figures are high in the mountains along the Cambodian border.

“Cambodia is among one of the countries in Southeast Asia most vulnerable to natural disasters, especially due to climate change effects,” it said.

However, it emphasised that many factors led to changes in the food system and proposed a policy and strategy framework to bring about reforms in various sectors.

“By 2030, all Cambodians [should] have access to healthy diets and safe food, with an initial focus on women and children, to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition and address the nutrition transition,” it suggested, noting that Cambodia has a population of 15.5 million, most of whom are young people with 55.8 per cent under the age of 30.

It added that in order to achieve this vision by 2030, Cambodia requires action be undertaken across multiple sectors aimed at providing food security and nutrition and expanding access to health and nutrition services.

It said Cambodia needs to create employment opportunities, raise the awareness of consumers through education and promote modernisation of agriculture and food value chains to diversify the kinds of crops grown domestically in an inclusive and competitive manner.

Moreover, Cambodia needs to promote the production of healthy and safe foods, the supply of clean water, sanitation and hygienic living habits by raising awareness and improving the quality of various infrastructure systems as well as providing increased social assistance.

Hou Kreun, deputy director of Helen Keller International Cambodia, said that in order to achieve these plans it would be necessary to have the participation of all stakeholders and especially relevant state institutions.

“We have discussed this work a lot but to have the expected results by 2030 we have to have more participants from civil society organisations, the private sector and the UN. But the government must be the core force for carrying out these projects,” he said.

He added that Cambodians did not have access to proper nutrition due to factors like a lack of knowledge on the subject, changes in attitudes, lack of resources and the supply of domestic products.