Mothers face difficult choices for children’s health in Cambodia
Mrs. Prum Sreymom is a 20-year-old mother living with her husband and her healthy 19-month-old daughter Sovannyta in northern Cambodia. She prepares nutritious foods for her family, maintains healthy hygiene and sanitation practices, and takes her daughter to the health center for regular appointments. But a year ago, these habits were unfamiliar, and her baby daughter’s future was in jeopardy.
Rural families lack access to healthcare and education
Sreymom’s story is common for rural mothers living in remote communities, located far from clinics and public health education. When she was pregnant with her daughter, Sreymom didn’t know how important it was to visit the health center for checkups and instead stayed busy with farm work. Her remote location kept her removed from current practices around sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition recommendations for expectant mothers. Instead, throughout her pregnancy, she maintained a more traditional way of life.
Her baby was born in November 2020, and soon after, Sreymom took her infant daughter to the hospital for her first checkup. Unfortunately, due to supply issues, the hospital had run out of vaccines and recommended she return for a follow-up appointment. When that appointment finally came around, Sreymom was busy keeping her farm (and family’s sole source of income) afloat. She prioritized their livelihood over her daughter’s health, assuming it was the right decision for their family.
Supply chain shortages and lingering pandemic effects continue to impact infant nutrition
Many parents experience similar decisions when they live far from healthcare centers, having to make difficult choices between their livelihoods and their children’s appointments. Disruptions in supply chains and the still-lingering impacts from the pandemic have made these difficult choices all the more common. This results in millions of children around the world, most of them in the poorest countries, missing routine vaccines.
At that time, I was not worried about my daughter because I was not aware she was malnourished; I just knew she was not gaining weight.Prum Sreymom
While her daughter seemed healthy in her first year, after 16 months, Sreymom noticed that her daughter had stopped gaining weight.
“At that time, I was not worried about my daughter because I was not aware she was malnourished; I just knew she was not gaining weight,” said Sreymom.
Helen Keller Intl delivers lifesaving resources and training for new mothers
Working with Helen Keller set Sreymom and her daughter on a new path. She attended several Nurturing Care sessions and cooking demonstrations, learning with local Helen Keller teams how to cook enriched porridge for her daughter several days a week.
“After participating in the program, I have a better understanding of nutrition and how to use an active feeding approach for my child,” says Sreymom. “I have a better understanding of childcare and know how to provide a variety of foods.”
Sreymom has also continued to follow up with her daughter’s health visits. Sovannyta was originally diagnosed with moderate malnutrition, and Sreymom was referred to a health center for initial treatment. With more advice from the health center and during regular home visits, Sreymom continued to cook nutritious foods for Sovannyta. Finally, when she was screened at a follow-up appointment, Sreymom could celebrate that her daughter had become a nourished and healthy child.
“I’m very happy now that my daughter eats more than before. Especially she likes to eat soup, different from before, when she would only eat rice and not drink much water,” Sreymom expresses. “I now know how to raise my child healthier and provide nurturing care.”
Best practices for health and nutrition are within reach – with the right support
Sreymom is now committed to maintaining healthy nutrition for her child and takes her for regular screenings, and Helen Keller staff are in touch with her regularly to support her along the way.
Working hand-in-hand with mothers like Sreymom, we help families withstand emergent health crises, and we help strengthen healthcare and food systems, so families get the help they need to weather longer term challenges.
These are unprecedented times – the families we serve need us more than ever.