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More than one third of Cambodians live below the poverty line, struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. Poverty is especially pervasive in rural areas and among children, who constitute more than half of the country’s population.
Issues facing children in Cambodia
- Cambodia has the highest infant and under-five mortality rates in the region, at 97 and 141 per 1,000 live births, respectively. Vaccine-preventable diseases, diarrhoea, and respiratory infections are among the leading causes of childhood death. Maternal mortality is also high.
- Malnutrition affects most Cambodian children: 45 per cent show moderate or severe stunting.
- Primary school enrolment rates are high, with a declining gender gap. But so many children repeat grades that it takes on average more than 10 years to complete primary school. Less than half of all students make it that far.
- Accidental death, for example as a result of traffic accidents or drowning, is a serious threat to children in Cambodia.
- Landmines pose a grave hazard for internally migrating children and youths who attempt to salvage unexploded ordnance and sell it as valuable scrap metal.
Activities and results for children
- Even though immunization rates declined slightly in 2005, vaccination campaigns have significantly reduced incidence of tetanus and measles. Coverage against hepatitis B was expanded nationally. Cambodia has been polio-free since 2000.
- The spread of HIV/AIDS may be coming under control, thanks to a dramatic increase in HIV counselling, testing, and education programmes focusing on prevention. Life-saving antiretroviral therapy is being provided to 10,000 people (including 1,000 children) who have AIDS.
- UNICEF provided de-worming tablets to 95 per cent of children in primary school.
- Production of iodized salt has ramped up in the past two years. Nearly three quarters of households now use iodized salt.
- Many UNICEF pilot projects are scaling up to serve additional communities. A child rights training programme serving 130 locales has been adopted by the Ministry of the Interior. UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools initiative, which improves learning outcomes, has been extended to more than 500 schools. And the national education agenda has incorporated UNICEF’s ‘school readiness’ model.
- Community preschool classes benefited 12,000 children under age five in nearly 100 communities.
- UNICEF and its partners built latrines, dug wells, and tested drinking water for arsenic, improving access to safe water and sanitation for thousands of families.
- Cambodia’s legislature passed the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims Law in 2005.
- After four people died from H5N1 avian influenza (bird flu), UNICEF helped to coordinate strategies for vaccinations and public education to prevent an epidemic.
- UNICEF and its partners destroyed 6,000 mines and 17,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance, and educated 400,000 children (both in and out of school) about avoiding landmines.