Disability in Cambodia | CABDICO

Disability in Cambodia


Cambodia currently ranks 138th out of 177 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index and 81st  among 103 developing countries for the Human Poverty Index. According to official government statistics, 35% of Cambodians live under the national poverty line which stands at just over 50 US Cents, and 22% below the threshold of extreme poverty. Poverty rates are highest in remote rural areas with limited access to roads, markets and basic services.

The 2004 Cambodian Socio-Economic Survey found that approximately 4% of the population of Cambodia are persons living with disabilities. In 2011 and 2012, Handicap International, the Ministry of Education, and the Global Partnership for Education conducted research to identify the prevalence of impairment and disability in Cambodian children aged 0-9. The leading impairments identified by the study were delayed cognitive and language development.

International research demonstrates a clear linkage between maternal and infantile malnutrition and delayed cognitive and language development. According to the 2010 Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS), 40% of children in Cambodia have stunted growth and 28% are underweight. These findings indicate a clear need for increased attention to child growth monitoring and promotion both within the health system and within the family and community context. Moreover, significantly more attention needs to be given to the medium and long term impacts of maternal, infantile, and childhood malnutrition on childhood cognitive and functional development.

In order to address these challenges, a number of initiatives have been launched by the Royal Government of Cambodia. While these initiatives have the capacity to detect or prevent malnutrition, there is currently no existing strategy which includes elements to detect and treat childhood impairment which may develop as a result of maternal or infantile malnutrition. Therefore, there is a clear need for the development of innovative; community based early interventions in the area of child rehabilitation in Cambodia. Adults with disabilities are often shunned and discriminated against because of their disability.

As a result, these people are often marginalized from mainstream society, live in absolute poverty, have access to very little food, and lack opportunities and resources to improve their living conditions and education levels. It is clear that disability adds to the risk of poverty, and the conditions of poverty add to the risk of disability. While the Cambodian government has ratified numerous international treaties which extend protections of the rights of persons with disabilities, little action has been taken to implement policies to enforce these commitments. The community environment remains inaccessible to those with disabilities and the needs of this group are not addressed by commune councils. In addition, awareness of the implications of these treaties is very limited among persons with disability.

Despite a number of NGOs working in the sector, services for adults and children with disabilities are often inadequate and particularly lacking in rural areas. The almost total reliance on NGOs to provide services raises serious questions about sustainability. By taking a capacity-building approach, CABDICO aims to create autonomous community structures with the potential for long-term impact.