Cambodia’s first Children’s Environmental Health assessment identifies important risks and urgent collective action
UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health, through an inter-ministerial and multi-stakeholder effort, to conduct the first Children’s Environmental Health (CEH) assessment in the country.
PHNOM PENH, August 26, 2023 – A one day workshop organized by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF was held in Phnom Penh yesterday to present the key findings and recommendations from the Children’s Environmental Health (CEH) assessment, the first of its kind in the country. This effort involved over 29 Ministry departments at national and sub-national level, including the Ministries of Health (MoH), Environment (MoE), Mines and Energy (MME), Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), and Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation (MISTI).
The CEH assessment, which was conducted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNICEF, provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of children's environmental health in Cambodia. It highlights the major environmental health risks that children face, including exposure to air pollution, water and food contamination, toxic metals, pesticides, and hazardous waste.
“The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. Children are now more exposed than ever to intense and destructive environmental hazards that jeopardize their fundamental rights, including their right to survive and thrive,” said Dr. Will Parks, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia. “These early shocks in life diminish children’s potential to be a future generation of leaders and contributors to their country’s economy and prosperity. The more we understand the situation, the more we can advocate and act urgently to support the most vulnerable communities.”
Climate change and environmental degradation are disproportionally threatening children’s survival, health, education, protection, and well-being. The global rise of cancer, diabetes, neurodevelopmental disorders, and asthma has been accompanied by a surge in air pollution, e-waste, and the use of harmful chemicals in everyday products like plastics, food, electronics, toys, and skin creams.
UNICEF estimates that three hundred million children globally live in areas where the toxicity levels of the air are six times higher than international guidelines. In Cambodia, nearly one in five deaths among children under five is attributable to air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than a quarter of deaths among children under five years can be prevented by addressing environmental risks.
Available data in the country shows that collective action by all actors, including the Royal Government of Cambodia, development partners, private sector, academic institutions, and civil society, is needed to reduce environmental health risks, especially for children.
“The negative health impacts on children due to increasing environmental risks and climate change factors cannot be ignored. Urgent collective action and more investment is needed to tackle these issues and protect our children,” said Dr. Kol Hero, Director of the Preventive Medicine Department of the Ministry of Health. “This assessment will be a valuable resource for all stakeholders that are committed towards building a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable environment for our children and future generations.”
Key recommendations from the CEH assessment include: strengthening policies, regulations, and their enforcement to prevent and control the exposure of pollutants and contaminants; enhancing the capacity of healthcare professionals to address environmental health issues; promoting public awareness, community engagement, and the engagement of youth on climate change and environmental issues; as well as conducting further research and improving monitoring and surveillance systems for environmental health.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work in Cambodia, visit: https://www.unicef.org/cambodia