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One of the world's poorest countries
After decades of war and economic stagnation resulting from the fiscal policies of Pol Pot, the Cambodian economy finally began to improve after the turn of the century. However, the financial crisis soon came and the economy faltered once again. The average salary is less than £1 a day, and around a third of people live below the national poverty line. Poor living conditions are particularly prevalent in rural parts, where access to safe drinking water is barely above half. Human traffickers exploit the vulnerable with heart-breaking cruelty. Many believe they are entering decent jobs with high salaries, and fall victim instead to forced labour or the sex industry.
Children in Cambodia
Poverty, years of war, migration a national HIV/AIDS crisis - these problems have left hundreds of thousands of children without parental care. HIV affects many thousands of people as well. Many people are forced into back-breaking labour across Cambodia, but too often it is children who find themselves in the worst jobs. Nearly half of children old enough to work are employed in agriculture, fishing and mining, or serve the wealthy as domestic servants. Many simply beg or sell wares on the street.
Our Work in Cambodia
SOS Children began work in Cambodia in 2000. We began by working with children in the capital who had lost their parents. Due to high need across the country, we rapidly expanded our work and now have five Children's Villages in Cambodia. We care for children who have lost their parents, as well as supporting fragile families and those in need of our support in the local community.
We opened our first community in Cambodia in the summer of 2001 in the capital, Phnom Penh. For many of the children the Village not only provides protection and security but also the opportunity to attend school for the first time in their lives as we prepare them to join mainstream education. An SOS School serves this need at secondary level, while older children spend time at an SOS Youth Home as they prepare to leave our care.
Many of the children in this area suffer from vitamin deficiency or skin diseases. Our healthcare work targets malnutrition, and vaccinations protect children against disease.
Like most of our communities, an SOS Nursery offers care for younger children, mostly for the local community.
Situated a few miles from the famous temples of Angkor Wat, our second Cambodian Village opened in Angkor-Siem Reap in 2002.
Because children here are so often forced to work for a living, many miss out on school. Education is a main priority for SOS Children, and in Angkor-Siem Reap, we offer schooling from nursery level right up to the early years of adulthood. We award scholarship to many poor children from the local community so that they can go to school.
Battambang has been seriously affected by years of civil war and political unrest, and when we opened our third Village in the area, many of the children living here had lost their parents or were at risk of doing so.
The wider district of Battambang is also one of Cambodia's poorest areas. Many families live in improvised shacks assembled with wood and plastic.
HIV/AIDS too is a big problem here, and those who suffer most are children. Our work here focuses on keeping families affected by AIDS together, providing medical care and sending children to school.
An SOS School is well-equipped with science and IT resources and offers a rich education to children across the educational spectrum. A nursery also serves children from the Village as well as the local community.
Living conditions in Ratanakiri are some of the worst in the country. Child and maternal mortality is Cambodia's highest, partly due to language and cultural difficulties arising from a wide ethnic mix, and also because of distance and the cost of travel. Half the population is under 19. Child malnutrition is severe and one fifth die before the age of 5.
Local government donated a piece of land to SOS Children, and in 2011 Ratanakiri became home to SOS Children's fourth community in Cambodia. Years of conflict and ensuing deprivation have led to a breakdown of family culture. We target malnutrition via a special programme, and provide nursery schooling to give children an educational footing early on. Later, we boost children's future prospects by offering scholarships to poorer children so they can attend local school.
The small town of Kratie is home to our newest Children's Village in Cambodia. Most of the population live in the surrounding rural areas, and the region remains underdeveloped with a third of inhabitants living on less than US$1 a day. As a result, children are often undernourished and often fall ill. We run a range of community programmes in Kratie, fulfilling the huge demand for decent healthcare and helping families send children to school. We also run a nursery, offering daycare for mothers, and providing infants with an early introduction to education and play.
Life in SOS Children's Villages Cambodia: Cheeky Kiri
Kiri was four years old when he came to SOS Children's Village Angkor-Siem Reap. His mother died when he was two months old. His father was terminally ill and could not take care of him and thus abandoned him. "When Kiri came he was wearing dirty clothes, his hair was unkempt and his head was unusually bigger than his body," the village director recalls. But his appearance did not stop the excitement which his SOS brothers and sisters had on the arrival of a new brother.
"When I think about my first day at the SOS Children's Village, what I remember is that mama was smiling with open arms and all the children wanted to see me and be close to me," said Kiri. "I had never seen a sofa set, bed and dining table." "In the earlier days he did not speak much but he liked to play with his SOS brothers and sisters", his SOS mother said. "He had never been to school and it was not an easy task for me to put him to study. Every time I opened a book, he would throw a tantrum", she added. But she did not lose patience and soon Kiri began to listen to her.
Today, Kiri is seven years old and attends is in Year 2 at school. He is a very cheeky child. He also enjoys playing football: In the evenings he is usually seen in the village grounds with his ball and friends. When asked what he wants to be in the future, he says "doctor".
Local contactSOS Children's Villages Cambodia
PO Box 2112
Tel: +855/23 219 190, +855/23 219 193
Fax: +855/23 224 034