Despite making moderate progress, Cambodia needs to step up its efforts in nutrition, sanitation and ending domestic violence in order to reach its UN Sustainable Development Goals, according to a new report from Unicef.
The global report, released this week, ranks Cambodia a middling 86th out of 146 countries, estimating that there are about 2.2 million Cambodian children, or 38.4 percent, living in poverty.
That is slightly higher than the worldwide average of 37 percent, with the global goal of lowering that figure to 18 percent by 2030.
Cambodia was deemed to be “on track” for things like child mortality rates and reducing HIV infections in young people, but needs to “accelerate” its efforts to reach goals related to health and girls’ rights.
According to 2014 figures, 19 percent of women aged 20 to 24 were married or in a union before the age of 18, and 7 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 19 who had ever been in a relationship had been “subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner”.
“While the adolescent birth rate decreased from 56 births per 1,000 adolescent girls aged 15-19 in 2000 to 44.1 in 2015 worldwide, it remains much higher in some regions,” the report reads. In Cambodia, it’s 57 births per 1,000 adolescent girls, but the latest figure is from 2013.
Gender and Development for Cambodia Executive Director Ros Sopheap said that a lack of sex education proved a challenge and that teenage pregnancies, at times, led parents to give their child permission to marry before the age of 18, as required by law.
“Girls could face with problems with their health – they are not ready to have a baby, they are not ready financially,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s pre-valence of stunting (being below the average height for their age) and wasting (below the average weight for their height) under the age of 5 stood at 32 percent and 10 percent respectively.
Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month promised expectant mothers $50 to “combat malnutrition”.
The Unicef report noted outdated or inconsistent data could undermine the Sustainable Development Goals, saying that data should be seen “as the spine of system strengthening”.
Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann declined to comment on the report or child health, but maintained Cambodia’s response to outbreak of disease had improved in recent years.