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Ministry to curb orphanages

A young boy looks out the window of an orphanage in Siem Reap
A young boy looks out the window of an orphanage in Siem Reap last year. The government yesterday pledged to cut orphanage populations by 30 per cent in the next two years. GEORGE NICKELS

Ministry to curb orphanages

Minister for Social Affairs Vong Soth yesterday vowed to cut the amount of children in orphanages by 30 per cent within two years through a joint campaign with NGOs.

Dubbed “Keep Families Together”, the initiative, backed by USAID, UNICEF and Friends International, will urge parents to avoid institutionalising their children via posters and radio advertisements.

“The centres should receive only real orphans who have no other option, not children who are living with families and parents,” Soth said.

“We do not encourage them to live in centres, because living with families means they have a future and happiness.”

Soth said an inspection in 2014 found 70 per cent of 12,000 orphans living in state and private centres had parents and relatives.

“Some parents are too lazy to raise and take care of their children,” Soth said.

“[If their children are institutionalised] they do not need to spend money on food or study fees. They do not have to take responsibility for their children.”

A 2012 study by UNICEF and the Cambodian Government titled With Best Intentions, found orphanages were often badly run and populated by nonorphans plucked from their families to lure donations from foreigners in what’s become known as “orphanage tourism”.

According to Soth, the number of orphanages increased from 155 in 2005 to 225 last year, with only 23 of these run by the state.

Last week, Friends International, UNICEF and USAID launched a separate campaign to tackle the other side of the issue by telling foreigners to stop supporting the orphanage industry.

Called “Don’t Create More Orphans”, the initiative targets the public, foundations, and faith-based organisations through posters featuring images of children packaged as dolls labelled “My New Orphan”.

UNICEF Cambodia’s Rana Flowers said children had the right to live with their family and not at a centre.

“We notice that right now the number of children living centres is increasing, so we have to join together to stop it and ensure them a happy future with their families,” she said.

Initially targeting families in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the campaign will start this month.

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