PHNOM PENH, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- A recent government survey has found that the rising cost of food has halted improvements in child health and nutrition in Cambodia, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily said on Thursday.
The percentage of children under 5 found to be "acutely malnourished" has grown in recent years, the paper quoted the Cambodian Anthropometrics Survey, which was issued this week by the government's National Institute of Statistics, as saying.
According to the findings, 8.4 percent of children under 5 were acutely malnourished in 2005, but the number rose to 8.9 percent last year.
The report also showed a jump since 2005 in the number of young children suffering from ailments such as diarrhea, fever and respiratory infections.
"If these numbers turn out to be true, this is a very serious situation and all stakeholders involved (in food security) should take action soon," the World Food Program's recently appointed Country Representative Jean-Pierre De Margerie said.
The inflation rate of Cambodia reached a 15-year high in July 2008 at 22 percent, but gradually declined to 13.46 percent at the year-end, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) issued by the government in January.
"Food prices are significantly higher than a year ago, but the trend is reversing," Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, was quoted by local media as saying then.
The CPI measures price fluctuations over a 12-month period of as elected basket of goods, from essentials such as food and gas to luxury items.