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Government lacks cash for kids

Government lacks cash for kids

T he Ministry of Social Affairs is too cash-strapped to carry out any long-term

plans to stem the ever-growing numbers of homeless children and NGOs say

authorities have resorted to periodic round-ups to clean up the

streets.

The Ministry of Social Affairs does have plans to educate street

children and send them back to their provinces, but they need $260,000 to

implement them.

"We don't have it," says ministry spokesman Touch Samon,

representative of the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Ministry estimates there

are only 600 street children in Phnom Penh, compared to NGO estimates of five to

ten thousand.

UNICEF's Margaret De Monchy says the government has plans

"to restore Phnom Penh to its former glory". Child welfare groups fear that

desperately-needed community development programs will be neglected for city

beautification projects.

The government has tried to combat the problem

of street children with a policy of "clean-ups".

WVI's Tony Culnane says

that the periodic round-ups occur prior to major festivals.

The people

are sent to government centers where "as recently as 1991, children were held in

leg irons," said UNICEF's Margaret de Monchy.

"There are no government

street children programs," said WVI's Culnane, "All they have are

lock-ups."

Samon said to reach their financial goal they need support

from NGOs. UNICEF and the Child Welfare Group are using this opportunity to

teach Ministry employees basics in social work and street children psychology.

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