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Map of Cambodia

Where We Work : Cambodia

Country Profile

Population 15,205,539
People living on less than 1 euro a day 31%
Human Development Rank 138/187
GNI per Capita US$880
HIV/AIDS Prevalence 0.6%
Infant Mortality (per 1,000 births) 51/1000
Life Expectancy 63
Literacy Rate 77.6%
Global Hunger Ranking 47 (16.8) Serious

Cambodia is a beautiful tropical country in South East Asia, it is infamous for the brutal Khmer Rouge communist regime, which ruled from 1975 to 1979. However thanks to relatively newfound peace and freedom, life is now far better for the people of Cambodia. It is not however without its challenges.

Needs and Challenges

  • One third of Cambodians; approximately 4 million people, live below the poverty line.
  • 46.1% of the population are living in Multi-Dimensional Poverty.
  • 37% of children under 5 years suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Although the economy in Cambodia is on the rise it is still one of the poorest countries in Asia. Income disparity and inequality are growing and Cambodia faces many challenges such as limited educational opportunities, high unemployment and a lack of basic infrastructure especially in the impoverished rural areas where often there is no electricity, running water or sanitation. In recent years over 100,000 Cambodians have died as a result of the AIDS epidemic.

Tearfund supports the work of its different partners in Cambodia, organisations such as M’Lup Russey who work to reintegrate children from orphanages back into their families and communities as outlined below as well as the Tonle Batie Church project which through Church and Community Mobilisation is helping communities to develop and lift themselves out of poverty.


Cambodian Hope Organisation

Tearfund Ireland partners with the Cambodian Hope Organisation (CHO) to bring about spiritual and material transformation to Cambodian communities. (CHO) is a Christian NGO based in Poipet, Cambodia whose vision is to see a network of strong, hope-filled communities, where adequate mental, physical, and spiritual needs are met. Tearfund Ireland, through its Connected Church network currently supports CHO to run different projects.

Anti-Trafficking Programme

Project Date: Currently On-going

Project: To reduce the number of Cambodian children becoming victims of trafficking, domestic abuse, prostitution and drug abuse.

Key Achievements:

  • Promotes awareness of child trafficking via training, mixed media presentations, liaising with local authorities, churches and other organizations.
  • Visits public schools and villages on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, runs education programs in child trafficking and domestic violence.
  • Runs workshops for teachers, village authorities and church leaders in order to increase awareness of trafficking, thereby reducing its occurrence.
  • Local children and their parents also receive lessons in trafficking recognition, which further decreases their vulnerability.
  • Programmes are run in collaboration with other NGOs and are supported by both the Cambodian and Thai authorities.
  • Development of human resource processes and systems to better serve staff and support them in their work.
  • Building deeper partnerships with local churches in order to put local churches at the heart of CHO’s work.
  • Provides volunteer teachers for rural schools and sets up vocational programs in order to encourage children to remain at home and gain an education, this will then reduce the temptation of a trafficker’s offer of employment and prevent children from entering Thailand in search of employment.

Micro-Enterprise Loan Project

Project Date: Currently On-going

Project: CHO’s micro-enterprise loan project helps families around Poipet to improve their living standards by owning and running their own businesses.

Key Achievements:

  • Micro-loans at 0% interest are provided to participants who wish to start their own businesses.
  • Training is provided on business planning, marketing and bookkeeping.
  • Skills training is provided in areas where there are skills gaps and demands as well as where there are business opportunities. These include welding, computer skills, printing, motor bike mechanics and sewing.
  • Follow up and home visits to micro-loan group members are carried out once per month to help them with support, encouragement and advice.
  • The programme has been very successful and all participants have been paying back their loans on time.

The Numbers:

  • Training has been provided to 26 families on planning, marketing and bookkeeping.
  • Micro enterprise loans have been provided to 26 families: one loan was given to a group of 10 people, one to a group of 15 and one to an individual person.

More information to follow.


Siem Reap Family Reunification Pilot

Project Date: 2012-Ongoing

Local Partner: International Cooperation Cambodia (ICC) Project Sky, M’lup Russey

Project: In Cambodia more than 50% of the population are under 25 years of age and nearly 10,000 children are known to be growing up in orphanages. Often these children are in orphanages as a result of poverty as opposed to actually being orphaned. Due to the severity of their poverty parents often feel they have no choice but to send their children to orphanages as they believe it will provide them with a better future and access to education.

In February 2012 the Ministry of Social Affairs in Cambodia announced a new policy aimed at removing children from orphanages and returning them to monitored family based care in communities. Tearfund’s partner was asked to develop and pilot a comprehensive model case management system for reintegration. This was done through individual and group meetings with children, risk assessments, case planning meetings to address individual needs of families and trial family visits.

Key Achievements:

  • A model case management system for reintegration has been developed and piloted successfully; this manual is being edited for use countrywide in all orphanage closures and reintegration throughout Cambodia.
  • The government has set up a National Inter-Ministerial Child Protection Technical Working Group, which involves M’lup Russey, UNICEF and six key government ministries to handle child protection issues.
  • Through strong advocacy, networking and liaising; strong ties have been built with government departments and other NGOs in Cambodia, thus providing a voice for the ‘forgotten children’ of Cambodia.
  • Families for reintegration were traced and local back up families/foster families in the community were identified.
  • Long term family income was raised by linking families with poverty alleviation initiatives of other organisations thereby helping to alleviate their situation of poverty that led to children being placed in care in the first place.
  • On reintegration children and families were supplied with packs that met their initial basic needs.
  • Follow up visits were completed and all the children who had been reintegrated back to their families and communities were still there. There was no need to make use of local emergency foster families.

The Numbers:

  • 24 children aged 1 to 22 were reintegrated with their families and 1 was placed in long term foster care.
  • 39 institutionalised children were assessed and 36 were prepared and assisted for reintegration from a social work perspective.
  • 69 packs of initial basic needs were supplied.
  • 7 government social workers were trained in the effects of institutionalisation and values of families.
  • M’lup Russey has been asked to facilitate the reunification of 108 children from 3 other orphanages that have been closed by the Cambodian government.

The limitations of child sponsorship

We don’t do child sponsorship at Tearfund. Child sponsorship doesn’t reach the most vulnerable children, such as street children as their lives are too precarious. We use our funds to reach the most vulnerable children who wouldn’t be otherwise assisted. We also support families and communities as a whole rather than have a sponsorship relationship which benefits an individual child. We do recognise that child sponsorship can play a role in supporting children in developing countries.

Families not orphanages

In Tearfund we don’t usually support orphanages because our experience has shown us that they are not the most beneficial way to help children. Even the best orphanages cannot replace the individual love and care that children need from a family-environment and at worst orphanages can become places of abuse and neglect. By providing a low level of support we have found that foster families can be found and these children can grow up in safe and happy environment. The main reasons we do not support orphanages can be found below. Read the Families Not Orphanages Report and Putting Child Protection and Family care at the heart of EU External Action to learn more.

  1. Psychosocial impact – Children in residential care demonstrate a significantly increased level of social maladjustment, aggression, attention demanding behaviour, sleep disturbance, extremes of over-affection or repelling affection, social immaturity and tendency to depression. Many of these difficulties result from the lack of availability of appropriate, nurturing, stable “mother substitutes” in residential care.
  2. Physical impact – Studies have shown that children can develop medical and psychological abnormalities arising from institutionalization in residential care facilities such as orphanages and children’s homes. These include physical and brain growth deficiencies, cognitive problems, speech and language delays, sensory integration difficulties, social and behavioural abnormalities, difficulties with inattention/hyperactivity, disturbances of attachment, and a syndrome that mimics autism.
  3. Lack of sustainability – From an economic perspective, the cost of supporting a child in residential care is about twelve times the cost of support in a community based care program. Since orphan numbers continue to grow rapidly and outstrip available resources, residential care is not considered a viable option for caring for the majority of orphans in the developing world. The UN points out that, “orphanages for 14 million orphans simply cannot be built and sustained”.
  4. Disconnectedness – In the community, children are able to stay together with their siblings (a tremendous source of solace and support) and maintain a sense of connectedness with their extended family, their neighbours, their childhood friends, their culture, their heritage and their land. Children taken out of their communities are raised in situations which do not prepare them for life as an adult. Residential care does not prepare orphans for adulthood in the community.
  5. Abuse – Children in residential care may be subject to physical, sexual or emotional abuse by staff or older children, and in the majority of developing countries there are no established child protection services to ensure a child’s safety or prevent future abuse to other children. These cases are increasingly coming to light in the West and there is no reason to believe that they may not be just as widespread in the developing world.