Tagged: Cambodia

Cambodia Faces Iodine Deficiency Crisis

Rathana Ung

Rathana Ung

Rathana Ung is a community-focused volunteer who has engaged with charity organizations in building dwellings and a floating school in Cambodia. Rathana Ung also assisted in the construction of a maternity hospital in a remote part of the country that did not have physicians or nurses readily available.

As reported in The New York Times, one pressing issue facing Cambodians involves ensuring sufficient iodine in their diet. With Cambodia lacking in natural iodine, the country set in place a mandatory program of potassium iodate spraying on locally produced salt. This 2003 initiative was seen as essential to preventing iodine deficiencies, which cause swollen thyroid glands and goiters as well as cretinism and dwarfism.

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 had an unintended effect of making the cost of iodine, much of which is sourced from coastal well brine associated with natural gas drilling, much higher. Raw iodine price spikes have led to non-iodized salt flooding the market and those existing at the margins of society failing to obtain sufficient quantities of iodine.

One silver lining is that iodine deficiency is a long term health issue. The thyroid is efficient as a storage vehicle and there is a 5-10 year window before which lack of iodine leads to brain damage and goiters.

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Muslims in Cambodia

Rathana Ung

Rathana Ung

Rathana Ung is passionate about helping people. She has spent much time in Cambodia, where she joined friends and family to build wells, water systems, and a floating school in a water village for the people in need there. While in Cambodia, Rathana Ung made a special effort to help the Muslim community to promote unity in the region.

Most Cambodians practice Buddhism, but Muslims make up a sizable minority numbering around 500,000. Around 80 percent of the Muslim minority belong to the ethnic Cham group. Cham Muslims value education and helping those less fortunate. During the 1970s, the Cham Muslims were targeted by the Khmer Rouge regime. Over 130 mosques were destroyed during the period.

The Khmer Rouge regime lasted from 1975 to 1979. The era left a mark on the Cham people of Cambodia, but the community has been rebuilding since that time. While the country is still in poverty, there is relative peace and freedom of religion. Modern challenges faced by the Cham include a higher percentage of orphaned children than Cambodia’s overall average, as well as a shortage of schools and mosques.