World Vision Cambodia

What Is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is bad nourishment and can be used to describe both, under and over nutrition.

In Cambodia, malnutrition usually refers to under nutrition; up to 32% of Cambodian children are malnourished, which is alarming and needs urgent attention.

Malnutrition in children impairs physical and cognitive growth and development. Depending on the severity and duration of malnutrition it can lead to wasting or stunting in children.

Wasting is the result of a combination of sudden shortage of food, bad feeding practices and repeated illness.

Stunting is the result of persistent malnutrition and is usually irreversible after two years of age. Children who are stunted are less likely to perform well in school, are less resistant to infection and disease, and are likely to be less productive as adults. Stunting has a negative impact on physical and cognitive development.

What causes malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a result of poor feeding practices during early childhood development. It can also be made worse by illness. For example diarrhea not only leads to poor appetite but also reduces the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Infants who are not exclusively breastfed are at risk of becoming malnourished, as breast milk provides all the energy and essential nutrients for children under six months of age.  It also provides early protection against infections. Breast milk continues to play a crucial part in child’s health and development all the way up to two years and beyond.

How do we address malnutrition?

Preventing malnutrition early in the life cycle of a child is smarter and more effective than trying to cure malnutrition.  

The First 1000 Days of life, from pregnancy until age two, is a critical time for child development. During this time children must receive good nutrition to ensure healthy physical and cognitive development.

To achieve this, we have to work together across a range of issues and sectors.

  • Communities need secure sources of nutritious food through markets and agriculture
  • Mothers and children need access to good primary health care
  • Households need clean water with good sanitation and hygiene
  • Schools need to include education on nutrition in their classes, and
  • Mother’s need good nutrition before and during pregnancy to prevent low birth weight in babies

The Royal Government of Cambodia recognises the importance of addressing Nutrition across different Ministries and levels of government.

The Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) is responsible for the coordination of the Government’s efforts in making sure that issues around Nutrition are addressed at a multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial level.  To learn more about CARD, visit their website

Read more about malnutrition as a multi-sector 

World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign, UN agencies and other international organizations issued a joint statement on breast milk substitutes in Cambodia to show a great concern on the increasing of baby formula commercial misinformation and labeling violations in the country. Click here to read or download the Joint Statement

Also, read more about an overview of baby formula products available in Cambodian stores and its level of adherence to national legislation regarding to marketing of product on infant and young child feeding here