THE government has made little progress in assisting the victims of land mines and explosive remnants of war, many of whom lack access to medical care, education and job opportunities, according to a report released Thursday by Landmine Monitor, an independent reporting group based in Ottawa, Canada.
Moreover, the assistance that has been provided to date has come “almost exclusively” from NGOs that are increasingly facing “donor fatigue”, according to the annual report, which states that there are an estimated 43,926 survivors nationwide.
The report singles out the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation for having failed to tackle disability issues generally and for ignoring land mine victims in particular.
“Due to [the ministry’s] initial focus on veterans only, its structure at all levels is insufficient to deal with the broader disability mandate,” the report states, adding that many provincial and district offices charged with carrying out the ministry’s work are “under-resourced, inexperienced or reluctant to implement [ministry] directives”.
Sem Sokha, the secretary of state at the ministry in charge of disability issues, said he was too busy to speak with a reporter Thursday.
Leng Sochea, deputy secretary general at the Cambodian Mine Action and Victims Assistance Authority, dismissed the report as lacking in details.
“It just looks at one slice,” he said. “Actually, the government, and especially Samdech Hun Sen, has made an effort both to clear lots of land mines and to help disabled people.”
Thong Vinal, executive director of the Disability Action Council, noted that the government signed a 2008 memorandum of understanding stipulating that it would, by 2011, assume responsibility for physical rehabilitation, which is currently managed by five international service providers.
“However, we still need some support from the international community and also the NGOs to run this smoothly,” he said.
The Cambodia findings matched the situation globally, according to the report, which says that victim assistance has “made the least progress of all the major sectors of mine action” in the past decade.