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Cambodia has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in Southeast Asia, and over the past decade, Helen Keller Intl has been driving sweeping improvements in nutrition for mothers, infants, and young children.  

“Finding better ways to address the needs of Cambodian families who face shortages of safe and nutritious foods has become our abiding focus,” said Kroeun Hou, Country Director in Cambodia.   

Through a variety of partnerships, Helen Keller has been working at the food and health systems level to reshape the landscape for Cambodians, from creating support for breastfeeding mothers to developing better media coverage of nutrition and health-related issues. These changes ensure that families have the information, resources, and support they urgently need to maintain their health and nutrition. By improving food and health systems, we can give the most children and families the opportunity for good health and sound nutrition so they can reach their true potential. 

These are a few ways that Helen Keller is impacting care for Cambodian families: 

Supporting breastfeeding and infant health 

Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a child’s life (and beyond) is the safest, most economical, healthful foundation for babies’ growth and development. Despite a government commitment to promote breastfeeding for new mothers, Cambodia’s exclusive breastfeeding rate has fallen to from 65% to 51% over the last seven years.  

A major barrier is the lack of breastfeeding support in the workplace. Approximately 76% of Cambodian women are currently employed, but many employers still do not provide resources and spaces for mothers to pump. Helen Keller is helping to address this issue by establishing lactation rooms in 28 different workplaces, including the Tan Bien rubber factory. 

Now that my factory has a breastfeeding room, I will be able to continue to breastfeed my baby even after my 3-month maternity leave.

Hum Math

“Now that my factory has a breastfeeding room, I will be able to continue to breastfeed my baby even after my 3-month maternity leave. I have one hour during my shift to do so…once before lunch break and again at about 3pm,” said Hum Math, a mother working at the rubber factory. 

In addition to promoting breastfeeding, Helen Keller also fights misinformation related to breastmilk substitutes. Our research team works with the government to hold companies accountable for the nutrition claims products make and work to strengthen policies to enforce this. 

Nourishing students with healthy nutrition habits 

Easy access to unhealthy food at school can increase children’s risk of becoming overweight or malnourished. To address this, Helen Keller’s Cambodia team has conducted a series of pilot programs, working in schools to promote healthier foods and counsel parents, students, teachers, and vendors. 

Helen Keller worked with schools to find new “student-approved” healthy snacks that could be sold in school, accompanied by stickers to showcase their nutrition. The program educated students on their own nutrition, and invites involved school stakeholders, including vendors, the school director, and commune chief, to sign an agreement so that only healthy foods would be sold at the school moving forward. 

“We appreciate Helen Keller’s support to address unhealthy foods at school for the sake of our children’s health, education, future productivity and economic outcomes,” said H.E. Chou Bunheang, Deputy Secretary General of the Council for Agriculture and Rural Development. 

Developing partnerships across the country 

Helen Keller is focused on engaging with a community of sister organizations within Cambodia – from community representatives to the national government to media organizations. These partnerships are designed to understand what prevents people from reaching their full potential and to put in place effective solutions to enact change. 

Our ongoing partnership with the Cambodian government has made a significant impact in food security and nutrition, lowering the rates of stunting across the country, and making progress on a number of health indicators. As a result, Helen Keller was the only nongovernment organization to receive a recognition award from the Royal Government of Cambodia for our contribution and commitment.  

“I hereby express my sincere appreciation and recognition to Helen Keller Intl for active engagement in the food systems, food security, and nutrition sectors in Cambodia. We thank Helen Keller for their contribution, commitment, dedication and achievements in assisting the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development to improve food security and nutrition in Cambodia,” said H.E Dr. Yim Chhay Ly, Deputy Prime Minister, chairman of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development. 

A path forward for families 

Helen Keller’s work in Cambodia is evidence that with the right support at the right time, families can reach their true potential. Working with partners in government, business, and other nonprofit organizations, Helen Keller is paving a brighter future for children.

Support the systemic changes we are making for families