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Cambodia Anthropometrics Survey (CAS)

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The National Institute of Statistics, with support from Unicef and UNDP, is currently carrying out a national survey on child and mother anthropometry. This survey will have a larger sample size of measurements than the CDHS 2005 and should provide the most accurate picture to date of malnutrition in Cambodia. The core objective of the survey is to definitively say what effect the rising food prices are having on the nutritional status of children and women in the country. Data collection is scheduled for the month of November and preliminary results should be available in mid-January. A more detailed account of the background, purpose, and design of this survey can be found below.


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Food prices in Cambodia, similarly to global trends, have recorded an increase over the past couple of years and in particular in the first six months of 2008. These changes are expected to have a particularly devastating impact on poor families, who currently spend as much as 80 percent of their household income on food items.

It is well known that families first respond to increasing food prices by purchasing less nutritious foods (staples) with fewer fruits, vegetables and animal products. Later, the families might be forced to even reduce the quantities of foods purchased and consumed. These negative coping mechanisms lead to increased deficiencies of vitamin A, iron, zinc, and iodine, higher levels of morbidity and mortality. At the country level it results in lower productivity and economic losses. Experts estimate that the current food crises is likely to slow the global progress toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially the first goal of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, the fourth goal of reducing child mortality (since over 30 percent of child deaths are attributable to malnutrition) and the fifth goal of improving maternal health.

Cambodia remains one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia. Despite progress in material and social advancement in recent decades, Cambodia remains a country beset by inequality and food insecurity. Recent survey data from 2004 indicates that some 35 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. Natural disasters also continue to exhaust the capacity and ability of communities to achieve a stable measure of development. Basic nutrition and health indicators document high rates of malnutrition and infant and maternal mortality with more than 37% of children under 5 stunted (CDHS 2005). Current circumstances make the country population extremely vulnerable to the soaring food prices.

Specific data are required in order to monitor the impact of the food crises on nutritional status of the population and coping strategies employed by families in response to increasing food prices. Current systems for data collection do not provide all the required information for monitoring, decision making, resource mobilization and programming in the area of food security and nutrition.

The Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS) provides nutrition-related data once every five years only, the latest being conducted in 2005, before increases in food prices. The Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey (CSES) also collects nutrition and health data every five years, but data from the last survey (2004) was not considered usable because of measurement error. Annual CSES does not collect anthropometric data. The Health Information System data (HIS) is not considered reliable or valid and does not generate data required for program design, annual planning purposes, or tracking short term changes in the area of nutrition.

Therefore, considering the present situation, the National Institute of Statistics (NIS)/Ministry of Planning (MoP) and the Nutrition Surveillance System (NSS) Task Team have agreed that there is a need to conduct an ad hoc special Anthropometrics Survey that would provide the most recent data on undernutrition comparable to that of CDHS 2005 and CSES 2009.

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Joel Conkle

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