03/04/2009, 00.00
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Phnom Penh: children in urban areas first victims of economic crisis

A rise in prices is sharpening the country's food crisis. Acute malnutrition is up from 9.6% in 2005 to 15.9% in 2008. The government's goal to reduce the infant mortality rate is at risk.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The rise in prices is sharpening the food crisis in Cambodia, which is mainly affecting poor children in urban areas. This is the finding of a study conducted at the end of 2008, the results of which have been released by the National Institute of Statistics.

In recent years, cases of acute malnutrition have risen among city children under the age of five, from 9.6% in 2005 to 15.9% in 2008. The situation improved in the final months of 2008, and the rate fell to 13.46%, but this was not enough to eliminate the danger of a food crisis in urban areas.

Viorica Berdaga, head of child survival and development for UNICEF, explains that the increase "is large, likely to be significant, and very logical considering that high food prices have the largest effect on those that have to buy all of their food"; in rural areas, farming for local consumption is able to reduce somewhat the impact of the crisis.

The rise in food prices, a result of the global economic crisis, could block the Cambodian government's "Millennium Development Goal No. 4": the reduction of infant mortality. The rate had fallen from 124 deaths per 1,000 births in 1998 to 82 per thousand in 2005. The government's goal is to reduce the mortality rate to 62 per thousand by 2015, but the food crisis threatens to ruin its efforts.

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