The government's poverty reduction body has released maps that identify those areas
of the country most affected by poverty, malnutrition, lack of education and natural
But data specialists have warned of potentially disastrous results in the drive to
combat widespread poverty if the maps are relied on as the sole indicator. Thirty-six
percent of the population is estimated to live on less than 2,000 riel a day, the
official poverty rate.
The General Secretariat of the Council for Social Development (GS-CSD) drew up the
maps with help from the UN's World Food Programme. The maps are meant to help the
government, NGOs and donors target the most vulnerable areas of the country, and
will be worked into the government's poverty reduction plan.
The government's key anti-poverty strategist Kim Say-samalen said at an April 9 workshop
the maps would help policymakers plan their interventions.
"To reduce poverty in Cambodia, massive financial resources are required while
the current revenue and development resources are scarce," said Saysamalen,
who heads the GS-CSD. "[The maps] are very useful for policymakers and planners
to deliver scarce resources to the most needy population and areas."
But Claude Katz, a data analyst specialist with the UN Development Program, advised
caution: Although the maps were good step forward there was a danger policymakers
would base their plans on the maps alone without taking other data into account.
"Poverty is a highly multi-dimensional issue, [which] is impossible to summarize
in one map," she said. "I'm very afraid. It is a high-quality product,
and because it is a high quality product, people believe it. This is the problem
Katz said the data was primarily gleaned from the 1998 census and the 1999 socio-economic
survey. Policymakers needed to understand that research represented the situation
five years ago.
Katz questioned some of the findings of the maps. While the nutrition map showed
that vast swaths of Ratanakkiri and Mondolkiri suffered some of the highest instances
of malnutrition, a different map indicated that these two provinces suffered very
little poverty. "Mondolkiri appears as a well-off province. If policymakers
look at this and ignore Mondolkiri, it would be a disaster."
Saysamalen said the maps showed areas where people live below the poverty line, and
did not indicate rich and poor provinces. They would be updated in 2003-4.
"We used all the available information. Right now the map is appropriate. [Policymakers]
should be careful with their intervention."