This guest blog post was written by Bormey Chuun, who is taking part in the Scaling Up Nutrition ‘Youth Leaders for Nutrition’ global advocacy programme. Bormey lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is currently working for Helen Keller International (a non-profit organisation that combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition) and is halfway through a degree in International Relations at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
This World Food Day 2018, we asked Bormey 5 questions to find out what motivates her to campaign on nutrition, as well as what we can all do to combat malnutrition.
Why are you so passionate about nutrition?
Because nutrition is so important for everyone at all stages and ages of their life, from the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to the rest of their lives. When I think of myself, I was automatically ensured access to adequate quantities of nutritious food when I was growing up since I was born and raised in a middle-income household. But, there are many malnourished children whose parents cannot afford nutritious food or who lack knowledge of this important area. For that reason, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to use my position as a youth advocate for nutrition as a platform. I want to ensure that Cambodians don’t overlook how essential good nutrition is to our daily lives and to expedite progress to eradicating malnutrition.
Why is nutrition important in international development?
Nutrition goals are embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty. As more than 800 million people around the world lack access to adequate, nutritious and safe food, nutrition is vital in reducing extreme poverty and enhancing international development. Improving nutrition for girls is crucial in tackling poverty, as good nutrition impacts their productivity and learning capacity. Research has shown that the children of well-nourished mothers are more likely to be born with healthy birth weights and less likely to suffer from malnutrition through exclusive breastfeeding. This decreases the many economic losses that can be caused by malnutrition in poorer countries.
Bormey in Washington D.C. taking part in an Advocacy Day at Capitol Hill with the SUN Youth Leaders for Nutrition programme.
Why is good nutrition important for people in your country and around the world?
Good nutrition fights poverty. UNDP Country Director Nick Beresford mentioned in a national newspaper on a recent UNDP report that 35% of Cambodians still live in poverty. Improved nutrition can put an end to the loss of $266 million (1.7% of Cambodia’s Gross Domesitc Product) every year, as malnutrition decreases labour productivity and causes great economic losses. Moreover, good nutrition reduces the risk of disease and improves wellbeing, both central to SDG 3. Good nutrition can accelerate the Cambodian government’s commitment to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
What changes would you like to see around the world to combat malnutrition?
I hope to see youth become more involved in this issue in Cambodia, as well as around the world. In Cambodia, I would like young people to participate in a national program where they can discuss nutrition issues, share their stories to mobilise public support and convince the Government to prioritise nutrition and allocate more funding to tackling malnutrition among young people. Furthermore, I would like to see women stand up for what they deserve and fight for their health rights, which include the right to get sufficient nutrients per day and to go against irrational beliefs or cultural norms that are still widespread in society about women.
How can others get involved?
We all are equipped with the skills to become heroes, but not the ones with red capes and the ability to fly. But the one who take action to improve nutrition. From small actions like encouraging healthier lifestyle among your peers and supporting women in your family to exclusively breastfeed their babies, to bigger things like participating in fundraising activities for youth programmes to fight malnutrition. For my fellow youth, we all have at least once dreamt of being a famous celebrity because of the attention they get, but we can be as cool as them by being advocates and striving to prevent further consequences that result from malnutrition. We can save vulnerable children, mothers and people from malnutrition and that will be the greatest feeling in the world.