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WFP and Government of Cambodia to launch behaviour change campaign to improve nutrition among schoolchildren

PHNOM PENH – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in partnership with the School Health Department of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), is launching an innovative social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) campaign to improve the diets of primary school children in Cambodia.

The nutrition-in-schools campaign was developed jointly by WFP and MoEYS at a workshop attended by UN agencies, civil society organizations, the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Offices of Education from Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap.

“Many factors contribute to poor nutrition, and behaviour is one of them. An effective campaign that educates children on the importance of a nutritious and balanced diet can be central to their long-term development and health,” said Claire Conan, WFP Representative and Country Director.

“Building on our long-standing engagement in school meal programmes, we are now working with the School Health Department and partners to develop the campaign to encourage increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, and proteins.”

In Cambodia, school children suffer from high levels of micronutrient deficiencies, rising overweight and obesity rates and a lingering burden of undernutrition. The rapid proliferation of highly processed foods in recent years has had significant impact on the quality of diet. At the same time, diet diversity remains relatively low. Rice, meat, and fish consumption are high, while fruit, vegetables and consumption of other animal-source proteins, like milk or eggs, fall below international guidelines.

“This is concerning because despite some progress in reducing the burden of wasting, stunting and underweight in Cambodia, undernutrition remains a persistent problem at the household level,” said H.E. Dr. Chhay Kimsotheavy, Director of MoEYS’ School Health Department.

WFP, in collaboration with the Royal Government of Cambodia, has been providing nutritious school meals to primary and pre-primary school children since 1999, helping to improve nutrition outcomes as well as student attendance, concentration and learning. However, as school meals represent only a portion of children’s diets and do not tackle food consumption at home or unhealthy snacking behaviours, there is still an opportunity to use schools as a platform to influence children’s diets more broadly.

This campaign will help advance the goals of the 2019 National Policy on School Health, the National Action Plan on School Health, and the Standard Guidelines for School Health Promotion, all of which include strategic priorities aimed at promoting improved dietary and health behaviours for school children and their caregivers.

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