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New standards put kids in focus

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Two homeless children sleep on the pavement with their mother near Wat Phnom in central Phnom Penh this July. Nationwide standards are being introduced for the support and protection of childen.

The establishment of new national standards for the support and protection of orphans and vulnerable children in Cambodia will assist 60,000 children nationwide who are poorly educated and face financial difficulties, officials said yesterday.

At a ceremony at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation in the capital Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng said that the nationwide standards – drafted during a year-long process between government officials and NGOs – would clarify how officials and organisations can provide services for orphans and vulnerable children.

“[Problems with] child protection must be overcome especially in the health and education sectors, through anti-child trafficking efforts, the elimination of overwork for children, and the reduction of the impact of HIV on children,” he said.

“We are still confronting some concerns due to lack of finances and education for children, which force them to drop out of school, to repeat classes, and sometimes they face human trafficking, violence, child labour, prostitution, and sexual exploitation [as well as] issues with HIV and drug abuse.”

According to official estimates from the Ministry of Social Affairs, there are currently 60,000 orphans and vulnerable children living in the Kingdom.

Unicef Cambodia representative Richard Bridle said that it was important to have guidelines that addressed different vulnerabilities that children faced.

“Cambodia has led the way by developing guidelines that are built on the recognition that every child is unique and so the care, support and protection they receive should be appropriately tailored towards
addressing these individual needs,” he said via email.

“The next step will be to build capacity and resources in order to sufficiently monitor their implementation,” Bridle said.

Teng Kunty, secretary general of the National Aids Authority, said that the NAA had recorded 4,286 children nationwide who are currently being provided with medication to treat HIV.

“On behalf of NAA, I am in favour of coordinating to practice the standards and the guidelines in taking care, maintaining and protecting vulnerable children,” he said, adding that the number of orphans and vulnerable children in Cambodia was unclear.

Tim Vora, executive director of local NGO HIV/AIDS Coordinating Committee, said that funding and government involvement would be key factors in successfully implementing the standards.

“We have standards to improve the situation of orphans and vulnerable children,” Tim Vora said. “But we ought to strengthen the national budget and donor funding in order to set up adequate human resources to carry out these standards,” he added.

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