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UN Official Says More Effort Needed to Reduce Stunting, Increase Access to Early Education


A boy plays lego at an arts and crafts station at the event celebrating the 30th anniversary of World Convention on the Rights of the Child, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 20, 2019. (Kann Vicheika/VOA Khmer)

The Cambodian government marked the anniversary of global children’s rights protections, with a UNICEF representative pointing out that childhood stunting and access to education are still serious concerns when it comes to safeguarding Cambodian children.

November 20 marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the World Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. The government held an event to commemorate the occasion, with 300 children and rights groups in attendance.

Cristian Mundaute, country representative for UNICEF, said Cambodian children are growing up in improving conditions, but that early childhood nutrition and stunting remain big issues for the government.

“Today, 35 percent or 40 percent of children are still stunted. And it is very important to still work and put a lot of afford into this,” Mundaute said.

She said concerns for early childhood nutrition are exasperated by the drop in toddlers consuming breast milk – a key factor contributing to persistent issue of stunting in the country.

“Today, we have less mothers giving breast milk than before. This contributes to the stunting because you are not giving the necessary nutrition to your child,” she said.

While access to healthcare has been a serious issue for Cambodian children, quality education, especially preschools, is another area of concern. Mundaute said providing quality preschools would only contribute to a child’s success at higher levels of education.

“[If] the child goes to preschool, they will succeed more when they finish secondary school and university,” she said.

Nhep Sopheap, secretary-general for the Cambodia National Council for Children, said the government is paying special attention to protect children, but accepts that gaps persisted.

“[There are] children exposed to challenges, such as children separated from their families, child trafficking, violence…and sexual exploitation,” she said.

According to a UNICEF report from June 2019, one in two children were beaten in Cambodia and around five percent of children had been sexually abused. Additionally, trafficking and child labor continues to affect children. Many times children are forced to work to assist their families.

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