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Nutrition in Communist Cambodia

October 09, 2019

Nutrition in Communist Cambodia

Before the early 1970s, the Cambodian people produced a food supply that provided an adequate diet. Although children gave evidence of caloric underconsumption and of a deficiency in B vitamins.

During the Khmer Rouge era, malnutrition increased, especially among the people who were identified as "new people" by the authorities. Collective meals were introduced by 1977. Food rations for the new people were meager. Refugees' statements contain the following descriptions: "[daily rations of] a tin of boiled rice a day mixed with...sauce"; "we ate twice a day, boiled soup and rice only"; "one tin of rice a day shared between three people. Never any meat or fruit"; "Ration was two tins of rice between four persons per day with fish sauce." People were reduced to eating anything they could find-- insects, small mammals, arachnids, crabs, and plants.

In Cambodia, both anaemia and vitamin A deficiency are serious health problems. Despite this, few comprehensive nutritional surveys have been completed to date. Ninety seven percent of women did not meet their daily-recommended intake of iron, while 70% did not meet their daily-recommended intake of vitamin A. Although many women consume vitamin A-rich and iron rich-foods daily, they do not consume large enough quantities of these foods. Results suggest that both the cost of foods as well as the extent of health knowledge is linked to nutritional practice.

Cambodians are fond of pork, buffalo meat, frogs, mussels, and crabs, and they like their food fresh. Buddhist prohibitions have never kept Cambodians from eating meat; it just kept them killing the animals. Sometimes offerings of entire roasted pig are made at Chinese temples.

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