More than half a million Cambodian children, or 14.4 percent of those under the age of 17, are either orphaned or living with a chronically ill parent, according to Ministry of Social Affairs officials who say food security and healthcare are urgently needed for this at-risk group.
The assessment was announced on June 20 as the ministry issued a two-year national action plan to examine for the first time existing services for disadvantaged children.
"The National Action Plan for 2008-10 seeks to address the underlying causes of vulnerability among these children, while also addressing the more specific and specialized needs of children affected by HIV/Aids,” said Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Ith Sam Heng.
"Of Cambodian children, 8.8 percent are orphans who have lost either one or both parents,” said Keo Borent, the ministry’s director general for technical affairs who also chairs a special taskforce for orphans and vulnerable children.
"In the national action plan, we have five main areas in which we will focus our aid for these children: food, education, health, economic, and psychological support,” he said, with food and health identified as the areas of greatest need.
The plan would focus on the five provinces of Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kampong Speu and Prey Veng, he added. "These five provinces have more orphans and larger vulnerable populations than the others.”
The taskforce aims to reach half of the Kingdom’s vulnerable households by 2010, officials said.
In addition to 553,000 orphans living in households, Cambodia has 6,121 orphans living in orphanages, according to the ministry’s alternative care report from 2007.