Cambodia, in Southeast Asia, experienced brutal conflict and civil unrest between 1975 and 1991. This left up to three million people dead and paused economic development. When it was over, the country had to start from scratch.
Strong economic growth in the decades since allowed Cambodia to reach lower middle-income country status in mid-2016, but the country still falls into the United Nations' least developed country rating. Although the poverty rate dropped from 50 percent in 1992 to 13.5 percent in 2014, Cambodia is ranked 143 out of 188 countries on the UNDP 2016 Human Development Index.
Though income inequality has reduced, large gaps remain between rich and poor. Four population groups are classed as highly vulnerable. One of these makes up more than a third of the population and confronts major deprivations including low and irregular incomes, poor health, food and nutritional insecurity, unequal access to quality education, and poor housing and sanitation. Factors such as deforestation and climate change make the situation worse.
Over 70 percent of Cambodia's population – most of the country’s poor – live in rural communities. Poor agricultural families are the most food insecure and rely on markets and foraging to source foods other than rice. Although most of these families live within 30 minutes of a market, changes to their income, food prices and forest coverage could increase food insecurity.
A 2017 Cost of Diet analysis suggests that 21 percent of households in Cambodia may be unable to afford a nutritious diet. Around half a million children under 5 are stunted, or small for their age, due to inadequate nutrition. This occurs more in rural communities than urban areas, largely due to disparities in access to clean water and sanitation. Two thirds of children aged 6 months to 2 years lack adequate nutritious food, and malnutrition contributes to an infant mortality rate of 35 per 1,000 live births.
Cambodia is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, with regular monsoon flooding in the Mekong and Tonle Sap basin and localized droughts in the plains region. Climate-related hazards have a major impact on the livelihoods of Cambodians already living on the brink of poverty, and an estimated loss of just US$ 0.30 in income per person would double the country’s poverty rate.
WFP has been working in Cambodia since 1979, initially helping the country recover from conflict and then focusing on sustainable development. WFP aims to improve food and nutrition security in vulnerable communities, at the same time as building longer-term resilience through better education, health and the creation of infrastructure and other community assets.
WFP is increasingly focusing on supporting national policies and ensuring that the Government and communities are equipped to achieve Zero Hunger.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Cambodia
School mealsPrimary school completion and secondary school enrolment rates in the country are low. To support universal access to eduction, WFP has been providing nutritious school meals to Cambodian pre- and primary school children in rural and food- insecure communities since 1999. We also run programmes offering take-home cash or rice in exchange for at least 80 percent school attendance. To help diversify diets and educate future generations about nutrition, we are establishing school gardens and shifting to Home Grown School Feeding, which allows local smallholder farmers to sell their produce to nearby schools.
NutritionWFP is working with partners to ensure that – starting from the first 1,000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday – Cambodian children receive all the nutrients they need to reach their full potential and build the full potential of future generations in Cambodia. Drawing on its research, operational and technical nutrition expertise, WFP aims to inform the development, transformation, and implementation of nutrition-related initiatives, governance structures, and processes, including the Cambodia SUN network.
Productive assets and livelihood supportWFP helps the Government increase agricultural productivity and strengthen vulnerable communities’ resilience to climate change, floods and droughts. This includes running Food for Assets infrastructure projects in drought- and flood-affected areas, where participants help construct community assets. Due to the impact of recurrent natural disasters, WFP supports the Government to enhance its coordination capacity in disaster management, emergency preparedness and response at the national and sub-national levels.