Around 30% of the population lives below the poverty line in Cambodia, a country that continues to recover from a violent war that tore it apart at the end of the 20th century. The State is equally marked by a strong disparity between urban and rural areas. This poverty touches children most of all, who as a result suffer from malnutrition and marginal life conditions.
RIGHT TO WATER
Access to potable water is a very serious problem in Cambodia that affects rural zones in particular. Approximately 16% of the those living in the rural zones have access to potable water (80% of all Cambodians live in one of these rural zones). Numerous children die from diarrheal illness. Hhygiene remains equally problematic as most households and schools are not equipped with toilets.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION
Currently, more than 10% of Cambodian children do not go to school. Access to education for young girls is even more restricted as only 20% will go to a secondary school. Though the education rate has improved in recent years, the conditions of education are deplorable. The material and hygiene in schools is largely inadequate.
More than 30% of births are not officially reported in Cambodia. Registering a child’s birth and granting them a nationality gives them legal capacity. This means that for children whose identity is not registered, they are not officially recognized as a member of society and therefore cannot assert their rights. Essentially, they are invisible in the eyes of society.
RIGHT TO HEALTH
The health situation in Cambodia is in extrememly poor condition. AIDS is rampant and unfortunately affects many children. One-third of new AIDS infections are transmitted from the mother to the child, and a great number of children find themselves orphans after their parents die from AIDS. Hospitals are insufficient and in very bad condition. They often don’t have pediatric services, so children are exposed to any infection or illness present in the hospital.
Children’s health is equally affected by the consequences of Cambodia’s recent conflict. For example, 50% of anti-personnel mine victims are children.
More than 75% of births take place in the mother’s house, which helps to explain the country’s the high infant mortality rate.
Labor is an everyday reality for around 45% of children aged 5 - 14 in Cambodia. It is estimated that more than 300,000 children are required to work in order to support the needs of their families.
Extremely dangerous tasks await these children, and they are often confronted with the sex and drug trades. Children are frequently providing unsafe and dangerous labor in salterns, factories, or for the booming construction industry.
SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN
Many Cambodian children looking for work are exploited. They are often victims of exploitation and sexual assault.
A majority of this trafficking takes place on the border with Thailand where young children are fleeing Cambodia because of the poverty. They then find themselves at the heart of the sex trade and face abuse, assault, unwanted pregnancies, and miserable living conditions.
Cambodian legislation suppresses this child trafficking and sexual exploitation. Uunfortunately, law enforcement is unreliable and the law enforcers are frequently the perpetrators of harassment, abuse, and violence towards those that they arrest. Because of this, any rape or assault that gets reported is lost in a completely corrupt judicial system.
23% of young Cambodian wives confess to having been married before the age of 18.
When a Cambodian girl is raped and the aggressor is known, the family of the victim becomes ashamed by the impurity of their daughter and will propose marriage to the rapist. The young girl must then not only overcome the appalling aftermath of a rape and deal with marriage at such a young age, she will now be expected to live with her rapist. The psychological consequences it creates are seriously irreparable.