Cambodia launches national plan of action to address urgent needs of orphans, children affected by AIDS and other vulnerable children
© UNICEF CAMBODIA/ JOHN VINK/ MAGNUM 2007
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 22 June 2008 - The Royal Government of Cambodia has launched an ambitious three year multi-sector plan to provide protection, care and support to the country’s youngest yet most vulnerable citizens.
The National Plan of Action seeks to put in place a coordinated strategy to reach orphans, children affected by HIV and other vulnerable children with a minimum package of services to guarantee their physical, emotional and developmental well- being and address the underlying causes that led to their vulnerability.
“I am proud to be launching this National Plan of Action. It is a great multi-sectoral achievement and represents the importance of different actors working together to address the needs of the most vulnerable children, “said His Excellency Ith Sam Heng, Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, officially launching the document with stakeholders in Phnom Penh. “It is one of the first of its kind in the region.”
The findings of a National Situation and Response Assessment also released at the same time and which informed the development of the plan, identifies the children who urgently need to be reached with social services and support. These include:
• An estimated 553,000 orphans living in households and another 6,121 living in institutions. Representing almost one in every ten children, at 8.8 percent of the child population, it is estimated that the majority of these children have lost their father. The number of children orphaned varies between provinces, with the largest proportion generally concentrated in the north and northwest of the country, an area where the country’s civil war continued for the longest period and where HIV prevalence is also high. Although the prevalence of orphaned children between the rural and urban areas is similar, rural communities carried a greater burden of addressing the needs of these children, in part because of the larger numbers of children living in rural areas.
• Although there are no estimates for the total number of children affected by HIV and AIDS, it is believed that a large number of children confront increased economic and social hardship as well as discrimination from the impact of the virus in their family. Many children have to care for sick parents and witness their death, while others themselves have become infected by HIV through their mothers. In 2007, an estimated 3,800 children were living with the virus and with prevention of mother to child transmission services still low, an estimated 1.547 babies are born HIV positive every year.
• Other vulnerable children include those who are living with chronically ill parents, street children, children living in extreme poverty, children of migrating families, children involved in child labour, children using drugs and children of illicit drug users, children with disabilities and children who are victims of abuse, exploitation neglect or violence. There are an estimated 300,000 children living in extreme poverty, at least 24, 700 street children, 1.5 million children engaged in child labour and 6 per cent of children have had one or both parents six for three or more months in the previous year.
© UNICEF CAMBODIA/ JOHN VINK/ MAGNUM 2007
The mapping, which was conducted as part of the assessment, indicates that very few of these children are accessing the type of social services they need. It is estimated that only 6 provinces have reached 70 per cent of communes with any type of specifically targeted programmes to reach these children, while coverage of services is less than 30 per cent in 13 provinces.
“Over the course of the past two years we have come to understand that the vulnerabilities of children are inter-connected and mutually reinforcing, often pushing children further into marginalization and ever-more precarious situations” said Suomi Sakai, the UNICEF Representative at the launch. ‘” For example, a poor child who has lost her mother to AIDS may be forced to drop out of school and is subsequently at increased risk of becoming involved in exploitative labour. A boy living on the streets is likely to have come from a family where there is domestic violence and may end up as a drug user, increasing his vulnerability to HIV. Through our experience, we have come to understand that the responses needed to address and prevent these problems are very similar. “
The National Plan of Action aims to reach 50 per cent of all households affected by 2010 with a minimum package of services. This includes food security, psychological and emotional support, education opportunities, economic and income generating support as well as access to health care. It also will strive to have services available in every commune with at least one organization providing care the support to households with orphaned and other vulnerable children.
The priority provinces for scaling up services, due to the prevalence of HIV in the general population, the large number of targeted children in need and low coverage of impact mitigation services are Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Prey Veng, Kampong Thom and Kampong Speu.
The plan is based on five strategic interventions.
1) Strengthening the capacity of families to protect and care for orphans and vulnerable children by prolonging the lives of parents and providing economic, psychosocial and other support;
2) Mobilising and supporting community-based responses that protect, care for and support OVC and their caregivers;
3) Ensuring access for OVC to essential services, including education, health care, birth registration and others;
4) Ensuring vulnerable children are protected through policy and legislation; and
5) Creating a supportive environment for a coordinated, effective response to children affected or made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS.
“The family has primary responsibility to protect and care for the child. Several studies indicate that the family is the best place for children to develop,”said His Excellency Ith Sam Heng, Minister of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation.” That is why this joint effort strives to give families the best possible means to care for their children.”
The National Plan of Action for Orphans, Children affected by AIDS and other vulnerable was developed over the last two years through research, consultation, and interaction with children themselves. The process, led by a National OVC Task Force, has involved consultation with and contributions from relevant Government Ministries, UNICEF, NGOs, civil society and international development partners.