Fighting Childhood Malnutrition in Cambodia


At nine months old, Sokhem* was admitted to Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC), a longtime Direct Relief partner located in Siem Reap, Cambodia. He suffered from both severe malnutrition and pneumonia.

His mother had passed away after his delivery and Sokhem went to live with his grandmother, who was not able to afford baby formula after his first four months and eventually could only feed him watered-down porridge.  Not knowing what else to do, his grandmother turned to AHC for help.

Sokhem is one of the 150,000 children treated every year at AHC, many of whom come from severely impoverished homes. Many children and families suffer from common communicable diseases (like pneumonia) because of a lack of knowledge concerning basic health needs, including diet, hygiene, and general health.

Malnutrition is a common reason for admission to the hospital, which is why Direct Relief is highlighting this important work in conjunction with Global Child Nutrition Month, observed in April.

For nearly a decade, health care supporter, Abbott, the Abbott Fund, Direct Relief and AHC have worked together to make a significant impact in addressing childhood malnutrition in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

AHC serves as the pediatric department for Siem Reap’s Provincial Hospital, treating children from neighboring provinces in Cambodia as well. Providing outpatient, inpatient, acute, emergency, surgical, low-acuity, dental and ophthalmologic care, AHC has treated more than one million children since 1999. Currently the outpatient department sees 500-550 children each day, has 47 inpatient beds, plus eight special care baby unit beds – with six more opening in the second half of 2014.

The hospital has developed and implemented a program to help educate children’s families about proper nutrition as part of their hospital stay.  While the child is an inpatient, AHC staff provide nutritional food to the parents, and then teach them how to prepare and cook nutritional food for when they return home. AHC has an expansive garden where they grow vegetables and herbs to both use in the cooking classes and to send home with children’s families.

During Sokhem’s month-long stay, he gained nearly 20 pounds. His grandmother received nutritional training and now helps him and his family stay on a proper diet and practice safe hygiene. He is doing well under her care.

They remain connected to AHC as the hospital staff conduct home visits to people living in remote areas to follow up on care received at the hospital or to see new patients.  During these home visits, doctors and nurses educate the parents on healthy eating and also bring along bags of healthy food for the family to eat.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of AHC, thousands of children throughout Cambodia, like Sokhem, are living longer, healthier lives.

*Name changed to protect patient privacy.

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