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Everything to know about poverty in Cambodia

About Poverty in Cambodia
In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge conducted one of the largest genocides known in history, killing an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians, although the exact number remains unknown. The extreme communist beliefs of the Khmer Rouge caused the death of approximately 21% of Cambodia’s population. The rebuilding and reopening of the country to the international market revealed the depth of the effects of the regime on the country’s poverty levels. Despite various poverty reduction measures being taken that have had drastic impacts on the poverty present within Cambodia, poverty is still rife in the country with almost 13% of the population living below the poverty line. Here is everything to know about poverty in Cambodia.


Because of poverty, 62% of the Cambodian population lives in inadequate, one-bedroom housing. Cambodia’s population is growing increasingly urban with more than 25% of citizens living in cities. Meanwhile, in the capital of Phnom Penh, one in five people live in the slums or informal settlements, with limited access to basic needs and hygiene. There are an estimated 4,000 homeless children across seven Cambodian cities. 

Water and Sanitation 

Although 50% of Cambodians have access to a basic water supply, only a quarter of its population can access water that is safely managed. According to Lifewater, 2 million Cambodian citizens are without clean water, with a further 6 million without safe sanitation. Rural Cambodians face much more challenging hygiene problems than those in urban areas with a high rate of 80% of rural Cambodians openly defecating, as opposed to only 11% of those in the cities. The same is true of handwashing facilities, to which only 60% of those in rural Cambodia have access compared to 88% of urban Cambodians. 


Often, a country’s hunger rate is an indicator of poverty. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 15% of Cambodia’s population suffers from undernourishment. Meanwhile, Cambodia’s children bear the heaviest burden, with 32% of young children facing stunted growth from malnourishment and 10% suffering from wasting. Floods and droughts threaten the rural Cambodian food system, putting the future of Cambodian nourishment at risk. 

Cambodian Children’s Fund 

Founded in 2004, the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) focuses on providing hands-on care to the children that need it the most in the Cambodian slums of Steung Meanchey. CCF focuses on covering four main solutions: basic needs, family and community, education and leadership. CCF has helped more than 3,500 children and their families find a route out of poverty. One of these children is Sophy, who was living in the garbage dump of Steung Meanchey when CCF encountered her and is now on a full scholarship at the University of Melbourne.

Looking Ahead 

Despite the steady progress, poverty in Cambodia is still rife and its population is still one in need. When looking to help those in poverty, people must not forget countries that have faced detrimental conflicts with impacts that last many years later, such as the Khmer Rouge’s genocide of Cambodia. Nonetheless, in order to continue to lower Cambodian poverty rates, the first step is to raise awareness of everything there is to know about poverty in Cambodia.

Genevieve Lewis
Photo: Flickr