Mosac’s three-year-old daughter Kompok was dangerously underweight - her tiny body and distended stomach were putting her life at risk. To make matters worse, malnutrition had left her vulnerable to infection and she was now seriously ill with pneumonia.
Mosac was terrified, but she couldn’t afford to pay for treatment at the children’s hospital in the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Pen, or for the eight-hour journey to get there.
“I was so stressed and worried when she was ill,” Mosak told us. “I was afraid my daughter was dying.”
In desperation, the family turned to a traditional indigenous custom. They sacrificed a pig to the guardians of the village and prayed their child would be spared. One of our childcare experts from the SOS village community in Ratanakiri happened upon the ceremony and, seeing how ill little Kompok was, rushed her to our malnutrition centre.
Malnutrition can destroy the lives of young children like Kompok – stunting not only their growth but their ability to learn and develop emotionally. The effects can last a lifetime.
Thankfully early intervention means Kompok is now on her way to making a full recovery. One year since her treatment started she is growing taller and healthier. She remains very small for her age, weighing just 11 kilos at her last monthly check-up with our nutritionist – a third less than is normal for a child her age - but she is out of danger and improving each month.
For Kompok at least, the future looks bright. Yet for children across Cambodia, a lack of healthy food and good hygiene remains a threat. One third of all child deaths in the country are malnutrition-related.
In the isolated village community’s surrounding Ratanakiri 40% of children under five are underweight. Many come from poor families who cannot afford to buy enough high-quality food for their children. Our malnutrition centre in Ratanakiri is working to identify the children most at risk and provide them with the nutrition and medical care they need.
We are also helping families in the region lift themselves out of poverty and make their communities a safer and more hygienic place for children – supporting them to set up small businesses and build water and sewerage systems. Clean, safe drinking water and decent toilets are essential to prevent diseases which stop children from properly absorbing the nutrients in their food.
We sat with Mosak as she prepared rice and vegetables for Kompok’s lunch, and she shared her relief at finally seeing her daughter healthy.
Smiling as she watched her daughter playing with the village children she told us, “Things are better now.”