Pour un Sourire d'Enfant fights against childhood malnutrition :

Pour un Sourire d'Enfant fights against childhood malnutrition

The situation is alarming: hunger in the world is not decreasing and this scourge mainly affects children. Indeed, 149 million children suffer from stunted growth and 45 million are underweight. The issue is therefore critical! Engaged in Cambodia for over 25 years, the association Pour un Sourire d'Enfant has been fighting child malnutrition in the country since the beginning of its actions.

A little girl is fed at the PSE nutrition center

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a medical condition in which there is an imbalance between nutritional intake and physiological needs. Malnourished people are not receiving a balanced or adequate diet, as defined by health professionals. In 2020, 9.9% of the world's population was undernourished, more than half of them in Asia.

Malnutrition particularly affects babies and children because their rapid growth makes them vulnerable to a lack of food or to a diet not adapted to their needs. In the world, more than 3 million children under the age of 5 die every year because of malnutrition.

In Cambodia, Pour un Sourire d'Enfant has identified babies and young children - up to 5 years old - who suffer from malnutrition among the families it cares for in its programmes. That is why, since the beginning of its actions, the association has committed to ensuring that all children and their families can eat a healthy diet and to satisfy their appetite.

The difference between malnutrition and undernutrition

Undernutrition is a form of malnutrition characterised by a lack of food. Undernourished people suffer from hunger. Malnutrition, on the other hand, is more about not having the nutrients and food needed to develop or for your body and brain to function properly.

What are the causes and consequences of malnutrition?

Its causes

Conflicts, extreme weather events, economic downturns and pandemics are some of the most common causes of childhood malnutrition. Poverty and difficult living conditions are also at the root of world hunger. Lack of food and lack of income to buy the variety of foods needed for children's healthy development increase the risk. People living in unhealthy areas, coupled with a lack of water or medical care, are also particularly vulnerable to malnutrition.

A ragpicker's village near Phnom Penh

This is the case of the families supported by Pour un Sourire d'Enfant.  They are among the poorest in Cambodia. They live in areas of great destitution, pushed further and further to the outskirts of the country's major cities. They live in small houses made of corrugated iron and old tarpaulins, often without electricity or running water, in very degraded and polluted environments. They try to survive through small, dead-end activities, with very low and uncertain incomes, due to their lack of training: day labourers on construction sites, street vendors, and scavengers. Precarious living conditions and extreme poverty considerably increase the risk of child malnutrition.

Its consequences

Malnutrition has a particular impact on children and causes serious health problems: extreme thinness, stunted growth and mental development: concentration problems or learning difficulties.

It can also leave cerebral and intellectual after-effects, sometimes irreversible, especially for children under five years old. The bodies and brains of young children need sufficient food and balanced diets to develop properly.

Children who suffer from malnutrition are more prone to infections and are more likely to get sick. Finally, malnutrition can lead to death in the most severe cases.

Our fight against malnutrition

The actions implemented by Pour un Sourire d'Enfant

Fighting malnutrition is one of Pour un Sourire d'Enfant's major causes and its nutrition programme is one of the most important and longest running. Indeed, the first request of the children helped by Christian and Marie-France des Pallières was "one meal a day".

Today, all children in the association's programmes receive at least one meal a day!Menus are prepared in collaboration with the medical team to ensure that the nutritional needs of children and youngsters are met.

A little girl at the Pour un Sourire d'Enfant canteen
Children helping themselves at the Pour un Sourire d'Enfant canteen
Two little girls eating in the PSE canteen

We screened children under the age of five and found there is still a high rate of malnutrition. This is why we have adapted our nutrition programme to protect the little ones from going hungry.

In the PSE nutrition centre, malnourished babies are taken care of. They receive three balanced meals a day. The most fragile or those whose parents cannot take care of them properly are taken care of all day through the PSE PMI service. Powdered milk is also distributed to mothers who cannot breastfeed.

Nursery school children are weighed and measured

In PSE's kindergartens, located in poor neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, children have been identified as malnourished.Specific nutritional support for these young children has been set up. The PMI service follows them very closely: for example through regular monitoring of the evolution of the children's BMI throughout the year.

The medical service provides invaluable support in the fight against malnutrition by providing its expertise and offering personalised follow-up to children who need it.

The programme to fight malnutrition is essential to reduce child mortality and to let children escape malnutrition and poverty!

How to act against malnutrition ?

Sponsoring a child

Sponsoring a child with Pour un Sourire d'Enfant means contributing to the overall care across all their needs, including food and healthcare. Sponsorship is the assurance that we can accompany the poorest children in Cambodia until they are integrated into society with a decent job, thanks to education programmes. But we know that children cannot learn on empty stomachs. So making sure that they all eat properly and to their heart's content is essential. Similarly, it is thanks to your sponsorship that we can guarantee the youngest children a personalised medical follow-up to fight against the risks of child malnutrition.

A little boy eating at the Pour un Sourire d'Enfant nutrition centre

Make a donation

Your donations are precious to help us fight malnutrition!

For example:

  • €40 = a daily meal for 20 children during the school week
  • €70 = 7 days of care for a toddler at the PMI


  • How is malnutrition diagnosed?

Health professionals use physical measures as indicators to carry out their clinical examination and make their diagnosis: weight-height ratio, height-age ratio, weight-age ratio, measurement of the arm circumference, etc. They may also investigate the child's food intake: eating habits, quantities eaten, availability of food in the home, etc.

All these indicators enable health professionals to determine whether a child is malnourished.

  • What are the forms of malnutrition?

Malnutrition can take the form of undernutrition (stunted growth, low weight) or deficiencies. It can also be chronic or acute.

  • What are the dangers of malnutrition for children?

Children are particularly vulnerable and fragile in the first 1,000 days of life. The impact of a lack of food or basic nutrients can be devastating, with physical and mental damage that can be irreversible. It can also lead to chronic pathologies or, in the most severe cases, to the death of children.

  • How to fight malnutrition?

The fight against malnutrition begins with the early detection of cases. Care of the children, as well as that of pregnant women and mothers of infants, is necessary. Prevention and awareness programmes are also effective to ensure better nutrition in the population.

  • How to treat malnutrition in children?

In order to treat malnutrition in children, food support must be put in place: through breastfeeding mothers, through the distribution of infant milk or through the distribution of daily meals for children. It must be coupled with regular medical monitoring to measure progress.