Hydropower Dams
A once thriving area for fishing and agriculture, the Mekong River Delta sports a dramatically different look than it did just a century ago. The river, historically wide and abundant, is characterized by large jigsaw puzzles of cracked earth where water has dried up and emptied villages where fishermen once thrived. The place has recently seen a mass exodus, with a million people resettling from southwestern Vietnam alone in the last decade.

Harmful Effects of Hydropower Dams

The region has long been one of the world’s largest inland fisheries, supporting 60 million Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotians. It provides Vietnam with 50 percent of its food and 23 percent of its GDP, and Cambodia with 80 percent of its protein intake and 12 percent of its GDP. However, over the last couple of decades, hydropower dams have emerged along the river, threatening local communities and ecosystems while creating large amounts of renewable energy.

According to a UNESCO report, dams on the upper Mekong have resulted in a 70 percent reduction in sediment in the delta. By 2040, estimates determine that these and future dams will block 97 percent of the sediment that moves down the river. This sediment is critical for both rice production and fish life in the Mekong. The loss has been devastating.

Hydropower Dams are Detrimental to the Environment

Even with the detriment to rice production and fishing in the area, the lower Mekong region may still see more hydropower dams. Several countries have created plans to use the area for power, and not without reason. Estimates have determined that dams in the region should be able to produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity, which would be a massive boost to the power capacity of the lower Mekong.

Dams are also an opportunity for foreign investment and could be a huge boost to the GDP of these countries. In fact, the Mekong River Commission’s initial studies estimated that countries in the region could gain $30 billion from dam development, though more recent studies suggest that the area could lose as much as $7 billion from this construction. Despite this, the Mekong River Commission has advised a postponement on the building of these dams until it can further evaluate the risks, and because of the inequitable effects of building the dams, which would likely benefit urban elites while hurting rural farmers and fishermen.

Are there Positive Effects?

Some argue that the presence of these dams may have positive effects on fishing and rice production in the area due to an increased flow of water during dry seasons as dams release water, combatting the effects of drought. Whether this makes up for the loss of nutrient-rich silt and fish life is debatable. However, farmers have recently resorted to using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can be potentially harmful in the long-run, to boost their crop production.

Though it is unclear whether or not countries in the Lower Mekong Region will continue their plans to build hydropower dams, it is certain that farmers and fishermen will continue to suffer as long as the delta is victim to the already present dams in China and the effects of climate change. However, on a lighter note, there has been a recent increase in international aid and development to the Lower Mekong Region, as well as an effort to maintain biodiversity and create sanctuaries for fish and new fish reserves. Hopefully, these countries will manage to balance the poverty-alleviating industrialization that comes with hydropower, and a shift to industrialized agriculture with the interests of rural farmers, fishermen and biodiversity in the region in mind.

– Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr

Housing Poverty in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country on the mainland of Southeast Asia. With influences from many different Asian cultures, as well as from France and the United States, some of the nation’s urban areas look similar to the western cities. However, the capital, Phnom Penh, is one of the few urban centers in this predominantly rural nation. Currently, there is a housing poverty epidemic and many people are lacking sufficient living conditions. Here are 10 facts about housing poverty in Cambodia.

10 Facts About Housing Poverty in Cambodia

  1. Poverty in Cambodia: Although poverty in Cambodia has decreased significantly, almost 75 percent of Cambodian people are living on less than $3 a day, which is just above the poverty line of $1.25 per day. This poverty affects both the urban and rural areas of the country, although it is more concentrated in rural areas.
  2. Urban Poverty: Many Cambodians flee impoverished rural areas of the country for urban centers, including the capital, Phnom Penh. Unfortunately, many of these migrants don’t find the wealth and better living conditions they seek. They are often unable to pay rent in the city and live beside railroad tracks in extreme poverty. These living quarters are often unsanitary and plagued with bacteria and parasites.
  3. Lack of Sanitation: Today, two million houses need critical improvement in Cambodia. Most of those living in poverty live in poor housing conditions in rural areas. According to Water Aid Cambodia, more than half of the population lives without toilets in Cambodia.
  4. Improving Sanitation: A housing survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics reported that 51.3 percent of households in 2013 did not have toilet facilities. This represented an improvement, however. In 1998, 85.5 percent of households did not have toilet facilities, and in 2008, this had only decreased to 66.3 percent of households.
  5. Habitat for Humanity: Nonprofit Habitat for Humanity has helped over 22,000 families build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. They work in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, to provide housing solutions to 2.8 million people.
  6. Cambodian Children Fund: Founded in 2014, the Cambodian Children Fund (CCF) has managed to build over 360 homes for the many children and families in dire need of shelter. The CCF is now hoping to broaden its reach, building homes across Cambodia.
  7. Volunteer Building Cambodia: Volunteer Building Cambodia builds wooden Khmer style houses for the poor of Cambodia. These houses last over 15 years and each cost $3,000 to build. Volunteer Building Cambodia is based in Siem Reap, in the northwest region of the country. They operate in the most rural and impoverished areas in an effort to combat housing poverty in Cambodia.
  8. Taramana: Due to the harrowing conditions in urban areas, 37 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished. Taramana, a nonprofit organization, has chosen to focus its efforts on the children of Phnom Penh. They help provide the city’s children with proper education so they can rise above a life of poverty.
  9. World Housing: The Borgen Project recently reached out to World Housing, a nonprofit headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia that provides housing to those in need in developing countries across the globe, including Cambodia. “Since 2013, we’ve worked with Cambodian Children’s Fund to build all our communities in Cambodia and between 2013 and 2017 we’ve built and gifted 483 homes, providing housing to 2,415 people throughout Cambodia,” said Jason Valagao, the organization’s Donor Relations Manager.
  10. Girls 2 Grannies: Valagao also stated that World Housing’s latest project is called Girls 2 Grannies. This project is building a brand new community designed with girls and women aged two all the way to 102 in mind. According to Valagao, these brand new villages will include, “a library, sports field, community gardens, a pagoda and two classrooms. Each home in this community will have its own shower and toilet. The community will provide housing to approximately 200 women through the gift of 50 homes.”

While housing poverty in Cambodia remains a significant concern, many organizations are fighting to better the lives of impoverished Cambodians. Whether efforts are made through providing efficient housing or educating the youth of Phnom Penh, there is always hope when people band together to reduce widespread poverty.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

3D Printing in Impoverished Nations
3D printing is a technology that has existed since the 1980s. Over time, additive technology has increasingly progressed where various medical applications can use it. 3D printing in impoverished nations has several benefits specifically in medicine and medical services relating to the affordability for the general populous of these nations. 3D printing for medical applications is the process of utilizing a digital blueprint or digital model, slicing the model into manageable bits and then reconstructing it with various types of materials, typically plastic. Here are three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations.

3 Examples of 3D Printing in Impoverished Nations

  1. Custom Surgical Elements: The use of 3D printing has significantly increased in the manufacturing of customized surgical elements, such as splints. Manufacturers can make these devices and components quickly at a relatively low cost, which would greatly reduce the price of sale to the consumer. The reason for the reduced cost of production compared to conventional manufacturing systems is primarily due to the additive nature of 3D printing. For example, 3D printing actually adds material onto each layer, rather than subtracting (cutting/slicing) and combining material. This results in smaller opportunities for error to occur and the wasting of fewer materials in the long run.
  2. 3D Printed Organs: Many know this particular field of 3D medical printing as bioprinting. According to The Smithsonian Magazine, bioprinting involves integrating human cells from the organ recipient into the “scaffolding” of the 3D printed organ. The scaffolding acts as the skeleton of the organ and the cells will grow and duplicate to support physiological function. Although this particular method is still in the experimental stages, there have been successful procedures performed in the past. Researchers at Wake Forest have found an effective method for bioprinting human organs; they have successfully implanted and grown skin, ears, bone, and muscle in lab animals. Further, scientists at Princeton University have 3D printed a bionic ear that can detect various frequencies, different than a biological, human ear. The researchers behind the creation of this bionic ear theorized that they could use a similar procedure for internal organs. Similar to surgical components, 3D printed organs would greatly reduce the cost of organ transplants. Additionally, it would increase the availability of organs, which are nearly impossible to find. Locating an appropriate match within a specific proximity of the patient has resulted in a global organ shortage. Whilst some have presented a solution in the form of international organ trade, WHO states that international organ trade could provide a significant health concern because of the lengthy trips the organs would experience. 3D printed organs may be a sustainable method to help impoverished nations with supply organs quickly and cheaply.
  3. Prosthetics: 3D printing in impoverished nations could also allow people to print custom prosthetics for those in need. The lack of access to current prosthetics creates a lot of obstacles for people living in impoverished nations. Creating prosthetics with 3D printing technology has the potential to provide a person the ability to accomplish basic, daily tasks in order to support a family. Not only are current prosthetics expensive, but they are also often inconvenient or they prohibit natural motion. For example, Cambodia treats a prosthetic hand as a cosmetic item, leading the majority of the population to refuse the prosthetic due to the lack of functionality. The Victoria Hand project is currently attempting to change this perspective by providing functional, 3D printed prosthetic hands to Cambodia and Nepal. The team has performed user trials, where the aim is to distribute the 3D printed hand to the general populace. Subsequently, the design will go to multiple fabrication services to maximize accessibility.

These three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations show just how important 3D printing is and will continue to be to aiding those in need. With further development, 3D printing should allow people to receive prosthetics and organ transplants more easily.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Wikimedia

Landmines in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country located on the Indochinese mainland of Southeast Asia. As of 2017, the country has a population of more than 16 million people. Much of Cambodia’s landscape consists of beautiful flowing rivers and large flat plains that transition into mountains. Unfortunately, though, much of this land is unsafe for use.
During the Vietnam War, more than 26 million explosive sub-munitions fell on Cambodia. As a result of the landmines in Cambodia, there have been roughly 64,000 landmine casualties and 25,000 amputees since 1979.

In response, a group, APOPO, has been clearing landmines throughout the affected region. APOPO and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have cleared nearly half of the country’s minefields.

In addition to the landmines in Cambodia, APOPO has been clearing land for 20 years in over 50 different countries. It specifically targeted Cambodia because the nation has the highest ratio of mine amputees per capita. The land APOPO can clear the land efficiently and accurately with mine detection rats so that it is safe for Cambodians to use. 

APOPO’s Mission

People in areas with mines are often too frightened to utilize the land for activities such as farming, and rightly so, because there is no way of knowing where the landmines are. Many often use metal detectors for explosive detection although this is quite dangerous and time exhaustive. People have scattered scrap metal throughout the land and it often sets off the metal detectors for false positives. APOPO employs rats to detect and clear landmines in Cambodia and other countries.

The training of giant African pouched rats allows APOPO to effectively detect the landmines. Not only is this faster, but it is also much safer because it causes no harm to the rats as they are far too light to set off the mines. The use of these rats completely diminishes the additional risks to human casualty. For comparison, these mine detecting rats are able to detect mines in an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes while a person would take up to four days.

APOPO’s Work in Cambodia

Beginning in April 2015, APOPO launched the noble work of landmine clearing in Cambodia. This was the NGO’s first time doing work in a country outside of Africa. This project consisted of bringing mine detection rats to help a local group, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC).

CMAC and APOPO joined together to clear landmines in Cambodia. They decided to tackle the most affected villages, which are located in the Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces. 

To ensure quality, the mine detection rats undergo training and performance tests over a three month period. This even included live minefield testing at the end of the training; all mine detection rats passed these tests. The CMAC used metal detectors to check all of the zones after the rats searched for mines. Results indicated that the rats did not miss a single landmine. 

So far, APOPO and the CMAC have found over 45,000 unexploded landmines in Cambodia. Through joint efforts, these groups have been able to clear mines in 15 million square meters of land. Thanks to the initiatives of these NGOs, people in these local communities will no longer fear death over simple movement throughout the village. The unnecessary risk of people losing lives and limbs completely reduces. In addition to subduing the danger imposed on the people, agriculture has the potential to flourish within these communities.

After speaking with the APOPO U.S. Director, Charlie Ritcher, he spoke about working with various other groups and NGOs. Ritcher spoke of the importance of working with groups such as the Cambodian Mine Action Centre; he felt that collaborative efforts make a more substantial impact in the fight to improve living conditions throughout the world. Combining resources allows each group to diminish redundancy, reduce time spent, improve financial situations and, most importantly, save many more lives.

Impact of APOPO In Cambodia

According to the World Bank collection of development indicators, 76.6 percent of Cambodia’s population lived in rural areas as of 2018, the primary area of APOPO’s work. Unfortunately, the rural population experiences more impoverished living conditions than those living in urban areas. Rural areas typically include poor access to proper sanitation facilities and electricity. To further outline rural circumstances, 90 percent of the poor in Cambodia live in rural areas.

In the past 20 years, these numbers have significantly decreased. From 2007 to 2014, the rate of poverty within the country dropped from 47.7 percent to 13.5 percent. Cambodia’s poverty rates have further declined as a result of the economy’s impressive annual growth rate of 8 percent over the past two decades. 

APOPO’s clearing of landmines in Cambodia further aid in improving the conditions of poverty throughout these communities. Clearing the land, which has not been safe for use in nearly 30 years, allows Cambodians to use it for agriculture to further develop the growing economy.

Cambodia has great agricultural potential because of the landscape; with vast amounts of plains and large rivers, the land is a perfect recipe for robust farming. In 2018, due to an increase in available land, the agricultural sector expanded and became 22 percent of the nation’s GDP. Additionally, the gross value rose by 4.4 percent.

APOPO is Saving Lives

After the Vietnam War, over 40,000 people have lost a limb and 64,000 have died as a result of landmines in Cambodia. A person should never fear death or limb loss to perform daily activities, especially as a result of random wartime mines.  Clearing landmines in Cambodia by using mine detecting rats allows citizens to regain a normal life and launch into a more sustainable life.

APOPO has been able to implement an innovative method to improve living conditions throughout Cambodia. A majority of the country’s population lives in rural areas where there are profound agricultural opportunities. Such opportunities have the potential to greatly reduce poverty throughout the nation.

Important work, like that of APOPO, of implementing unique and effective methods to fight against unnecessary harm that restricts people’s livelihood is key in reducing poverty and improving quality of life. 

– James Turner
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in Cambodia
Despite experiencing robust economic growth in recent years, GDP per capita in Cambodia remains low. While urban Cambodians are now able to enjoy increased sanitation services and access to clean water, the majority of the population resides in rural areas where the living conditions are sub-standard. Below are the top 10 facts about sanitation in Cambodia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cambodia

  1. Access to Clean Water and Sanitation: Approximately 50 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation and basic water supply, but only a quarter has safely managed water. More than 2 million people, or about 13 percent of the population, are still living without clean water and 6 million do not have access to safe sanitation.
  2. Increased Access to Improved Sanitation: The total number of people with access to improved facilities increased from 3 percent in 1990 to 42 percent in 2015. Cambodia has eradicated open defecation in urban areas and 88 percent of urban Cambodians have access to improved facilities. The progress is even remarkable among the poorest urban households with 82 percent now having access to improved sanitation, up from 0 percent in 1990.
  3. Open Defecation: Cambodia has the highest rate of open defecation in the region with 80 percent of the poorest rural Cambodians defecating in the open. This unsafe practice contaminates the land and water sources, exposing the population to dangerous waterborne infectious diseases and causing preventable deaths. Cambodia is working towards its national target of eliminating open defecation by 2025.
  4. Disparities Between Urban and Rural Areas: Forty percent of Cambodians in rural areas do not have access to hand-washing facilities compared to only 12 percent of the urban population. Almost 90 percent of the urban population has access to improved latrines while only 40 percent of the people living in rural areas do.
  5. Economic Costs: Lack of sanitation costs Cambodia up to $448 million annually, which is equivalent to 7.2 percent of the nation’s GDP. Health-related losses are some of the largest contributors to this economic impact, which account for 42 percent of the impact, or $187 million. Costs of accessing cleaner water, welfare and time losses and tourism loss due to poor sanitation also contribute to the high economic impact.
  6. Asian Development Bank (ADB): To support financing Cambodia’s goal of providing universal access to improved water supply and sanitation services by 2025, the ADB has approved $49 million in funding. Since 2005, more than 1 million people in Tonle Sap Lake have received benefits from ADB-supported water supply and sanitation services projects. The new project will benefit more than 400,000 people in at least 400 Cambodian villages.
  7. Plan International Cambodia: Since 2006, the program by Plan International has helped to promote the adoption of clean water consumption, hygiene and sanitation practice in hundreds of Cambodian villages. Using the community-led total sanitation approach, the program has helped 750 villages achieve the open defecation free status, as well as construct and install 130 wells, 65 water purifying systems and 700 sanitation facilities at schools.
  8. Latrine Access: Cambodia is making steady progress in increasing latrine access in the population, doubling the coverage rate in rural households from 23 to 46 percent in five years. Production costs have plunged, making latrines accessible and affordable to an increasing proportion of the population. The director of the Department of Rural Health Care estimates that 80 percent of Cambodians can now afford latrines.
  9. Cambodia Rural Sanitation: iDE, or previously International Development Enterprises, has announced a $10 million Development Impact Bond (DIB) to support Cambodia’s sanitation initiatives in partnership with USAID and the Stone Family Foundation. It is the world’s first DIB developed for the WASH sector, aiming to eradicate open defecation in 1,600 villages in six provinces by 2023. The impact bond will support iDE’s Sanitation Marketing Scale-up Program, which delivers affordable latrines to 10s of thousands of households annually and has successfully increased sanitation coverage from 29 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2018.
  10. Sanitation Marketing: Traditional programs focusing on education may be successful in raising awareness, but do not always translate to purchases of hygienic toilets. Sanitation Marketing is a market-based approach that aims to increase both the capacity to supply and the demand for sanitation by making owning a toilet more appealing and desirable for families. iDE and WaterSHED implemented this new approach and focused on the rural Cambodian areas, and both have been successful in enabling the sale of more than 260,000 toilets and increasing improved sanitation coverage in Cambodia’s rural communities considerably.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Cambodia give a brief overview of the challenges and progress the country is making regarding the WASH sector. Cambodia is making improving the quality of water and sanitation a priority, which not only ensures the basic rights of people and protects human dignity but also indirectly and directly benefits Cambodia’s socio-economic development. Despite facing many challenges, with support from different international and local NGOs, the government of Cambodia has committed itself to the achievement of its goal of providing universal access to clean water and sanitation services by 2025.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Indoor Air Pollution in Rural CambodiaCambodia has seen a rapid decrease in poverty within the last decade. More than 45 percent of the population was impoverished in 2007 when compared to 13.5 percent in 2014. It has also sustained one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world at an average of 8 percent between 1998 and 2018. However, just because the majority of the country has achieved middle-income status does not mean that the country is without its issues. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is a growing problem.

Rural vs. Urban Areas

Many of those who have only recently overcome poverty have just barely done so. A large part of Cambodia’s population still lives on a very small amount of money per day and is at risk of slipping back into poverty. This risk is much higher in rural provinces. Eighty percent of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas that had a poverty level of 20.8 percent in 2012. That is three times higher than the poverty rate in urban areas.

Rural Cambodians are subject as such to the hardships that many of the world’s rural poor must face. These include dilapidated electrical and internet infrastructure as well as limited access to healthcare and sanitation resources. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is one such aspect of health that affects the rural poor disproportionately.

Indoor Air Pollution

The typical symptoms of being regularly exposed to indoor air pollution include nasal congestion, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, a sore throat and asthma. These symptoms seem similar to a common cold, but long-term effects can include more serious respiratory diseases like respiratory disease and cancer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk in the Western Pacific Region. In 2012, air pollution caused at least 3.2 million deaths. Indoor air pollution accounted for about 1.62 million of these deaths. Indoor air pollution is usually caused by smoking tobacco inside and by cooking with wood, coal or dung without proper indoor ventilation. Many people who are poor in rural areas with limited access to gas or electricity use these methods to cook. In rural Cambodia, the prevalence of these cooking methods reached 95 percent of households by 2013.

Biogas Stoves

The main solution to reducing indoor air pollution is to introduce efficient stoves that use clean fuel. One source of clean stove fuel would simply be electricity. However, that is an issue for rural Cambodians since the electrical infrastructure is sparse in rural areas. A better, more applicable solution would be to introduce biogas stoves with proper ventilation.

One million Cambodian households have the proper livestock to supply themselves with biogas fuel. The fuel would need to be extracted by using a biodigester that anaerobically takes methane from natural resources such as dung stored underground and siphons it to the stove. The methane would, of course, need proper ventilation to ensure the air in the household did not become poisonous just like a natural gas stove. Cambodia’s Natural Biodigester Programme (NBP) is working to distribute biodigesters to its rural population in hopes of combatting indoor air pollution. As of 2016, the state-led program has installed about 23,000 biodigesters.

The ACE 1 Stove

Using solid biomass for cooking causes much of indoor air pollution. Another alternative to solid biomass would be to use cleaner biomass stovetops that produce negligible emissions indoors. African Clean Energy (ACE) has launched the ACE 1 stove. This stove uses biomass as fuel but burns nearly all particles inside the chamber to leave barely any emissions. In addition, the stove comes with solar panels that provide LED lighting and outlet ports for mobile phones.

ACE has launched a program in northern Cambodia, the poorest Cambodian region, to try and implement the product. The ACE 1 is auctioned from a local vendor where the buyer pays a $25 downpayment. Afterward, the buyer continues to pay off the stove in small monthly increments of about $7.

Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is still rampant in rural parts despite the overall increase in income. The solutions are there, but in order to ensure economic growth that benefits everybody, Cambodia needs to focus on the implementation of these solutions in an ethical and sustainable way. This would lessen the health risks that the Cambodian poor face from simply living in their houses. It will also help facilitate more stable, lasting economic growth and development for the poor of the countryside.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Vietnam
Vietnam, one of the four remaining communist countries in the world, is making remarkable progress in reducing hunger and poverty. From one of the poorest nations in the world with most of the population living below the poverty line, the nation has developed into a middle-income country. The poverty rate decreased from over 70 percent of the population to below 6 percent in just over 30 years after economic reforms in 1986.

Despite this positive outlook of the economy and the remarkable progress, not everyone is able to enjoy this new-found wealth. It is still a challenge for the government to tackle poverty for the ethnic minorities living in remote mountainous areas or areas prone to natural disasters where poverty most concentrates. It is also this population that has the most vulnerable and desperate individuals that become the victims of human trafficking. These 10 facts about human trafficking in Vietnam illustrate the possible source of the problem, as well as the attempts and efforts to fight against it.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Vietnam

  1. A Source Country: Vietnam is a predominant source country of human trafficking and also a destination country, mainly for Cambodian migrants. The Vietnamese government identified about 7,500 victims of human trafficking between 2012 and 2017, with 80 percent of the victims coming from remote ethnic communities. The statistics available are likely an underestimate due to a lack of an accurate system of data collection, as well as the unwillingness to report the exploitation of many returning victims.
  2. Victims: Victims of human trafficking often come from a poor, vulnerable or broken family and lack education or awareness of human trafficking. Traffickers often exploit the fragility of these people and utilize the internet, using gaming sites and social media to approach potential victims. Men might also entice women and young girls into relationships to gain their trust. These men then persuade the victims to move abroad where they subject them to sex trafficking or forced labor.
  3. Industries: Men and women trafficked from Vietnam often work in logging, construction, mining, fishing, agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors. The employers of these workers situate mainly in Japan, Angola, Laos, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. There is also an increasing trend of human trafficking to countries further away in the Middle East and Europe. Recently, traffickers have sent an influx of people to the U.K. to work on cannabis farms.
  4. Children: Traffickers coerce children as young as 6 to work in garment factories under exploitative conditions. Within the country, they may force children to beg or hawk on the streets in urban areas. Reports also show an overall rise in the number of children trafficked and sexually exploited due to high demand in Vietnam.
  5. Child Sex Tourism: Vietnam is becoming a popular destination country for child sex tourism, attracting perpetrators from Japan, South Korea, the U.K., Europe and the U.S. This increasing demand has caused a rise in cases of child trafficking. A study has estimated that 5.6 percent of children in Vietnam have had experiences related to child trafficking. The Vietnamese government is putting in increased efforts to prevent sexual exploitation of children (SEC) by promoting and implementing children’s rights by devising new legislation, strengthening national children protection systems, as well as educating and raising awareness of the public on SEC-related issues.
  6. Prostitution and Domestic Servitude: A large percentage of Vietnamese women and children work in forced prostitution or domestic servitude through fraudulent job opportunities or brokered marriage. Traffickers often sell them at the border, and later on, transport them to China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore for physical and sexual exploitations.
  7. Corruption: Corruption is pervasive in Vietnam. There is evidence showing officials and police taking bribes and colluding with organized criminals, traffickers included. A survey by Transparency International reported that 30 percent of people paid bribes to public services in Vietnam and that they believed the police to be the most corrupt institution in the country. This has tremendously complicated the efforts of tackling human trafficking.
  8. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Vietnamese government is maintaining efforts in combating trafficking but has come across some issues due to lack of funding and inter-ministerial coordination. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized training courses and workshops to improve the capacity of officials to prevent human trafficking and assist the victims. The authority also organizes campaigns and distributes flyers to raise public awareness, targeting high-risk groups in border areas and vulnerable communities. The number of trafficking victims that authorities identified in 2018 was 490, a significant decrease from 670 in 2017 and 1,128 in 2016.
  9. Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation: Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, or Blue Dragon, is an NGO that addresses the human trafficking problem in Vietnam. It focusses on cases of forced child labor as well as trafficking for sexual exploitation of Vietnamese women and girls. The organization has rescued and assisted around 130 women and children annually from labor exploitation and sex trafficking. It also provides training for police, border guards and officials in child rights and combating trafficking.
  10. The Peace House: The Vietnamese Center for Women and Development manages the Peace House to provide support for victims of domestic abuse or human trafficking. It provides shelters, consultation, education and vocational training for women and children, as well as organizes campaigns to raise public awareness about gender equality and human trafficking. Since its opening, the Peace House has provided shelters for more than 1,200 victims and helped more than 1,100 re-integrate into society.

Many Vietnamese people’s desire for a better quality of life has driven them to the hands of human traffickers, subjecting them to physical and sexual exploitation abroad. These people are often initially the victims of poverty, vulnerable and desperate.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Vietnam provide an overview of the problem and how Vietnam is handling it. Providing assistance and protection to victims of human trafficking as well as raising public awareness are all essential measures. A sustainable solution to combatting human trafficking is to get to the root of the problem: poverty. When good opportunities are available in local communities, there would be less demand to migrate elsewhere, thus decreasing the chance of falling victim to human trafficking.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Southeast Asia
In many developing Southeast Asian countries, governments seldom prioritize sanitation when there is a limited spending budget. However, over the past decade or so, many countries in the area have experienced steady economic growth which has led to gradual improvements in sanitary conditions for the people. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Southeast Asia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Southeast Asia

  1. Increased Coverage for Improved Sanitation: As of 2018, 95.5 percent of Southeast Asia’s urban population and 85.6 percent of its rural population had access to improved drinking water. This marked a 2.4 percent increase in access for urban locations and an 8.9 percent increase for rural areas since 2005. Approximately 80.8 percent of people living in urban areas and 64.3 percent living in rural areas had access to improved sanitation such as flush toilets and piped sewer systems in 2018. Access to improved sanitation is also increasing at greater rates than improved water in most countries.
  2. Improved Health Due to Better Conditions: Around 0.71 percent of all deaths in Southeast Asia in 2017 was the result of unsafe sanitation conditions. This percentage has dropped 2.3 percent since 1990 and is lower than the world average of 1.38 percent. Cases of infectious diseases, diarrhea, malnutrition and other negative health effects that open defecation caused have also gone down as the share of the population practicing such actions decreased. As for countries where substantial toilet infrastructure is still lacking, such as Cambodia, Timor, Laos and Indonesia, scientists are working to design and install new flush toilets. One team at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok has received a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund such a project.
  3. Creating Comprehensive National Policies: Certain developing Southeast Asian countries lack comprehensive regulations regarding the design and construction of sewers and other sanitation systems. Existing regulations often fail to take variations in local conditions into consideration and people do not always strictly enforce these regulations. Some also neglect to assign the responsibility of management to an institution.
  4. Establishing Institutional Management: Limited ability to implement sanitary systems and unclear institutional division of responsibility has caused gaps in service provision, resulting in low-quality infrastructure, delayed constructions and miscommunications. Multiple international committees have called for government officials to receive training in all essential aspects of sanitation management.
  5. Raising Awareness Among Policymakers: Internationally, the U.S. Agency for International Development recommended that local policymakers become aware of the benefits improved sanitation systems have regarding health, environment and economy through regional research collaborations and water operator partnerships. The intergovernmental Association of Southeast Asian Nations has also come together to discuss Indonesia’s progress in delivering improved water and sanitation to its people. Locally, increasing media coverage and discussions about sanitation are also helping the subject gain focus.
  6. Raising Awareness Among Local Community: Many locals are unaware of the dangers that lie in unsanitary defecation and do not understand the purposes of an improved sewer system. In Indonesia, Water.org has held media sessions to encourage dialogue and awareness regarding sanitation. Similarly, many community health centers and international organizations are working to educate locals on the benefits of improved sanitation, as well as to inform them of the services and financial support available.
  7. Community-led Sanitation Installations: Community-led total sanitation efforts have drastically improved conditions in many Southeast Asian countries as self-respect became the driving force behind the movement. With help and guidance from local authorities, community households can get the financial and institutional support necessary to connect to the more improved sanitation systems.
  8. Financing On-Site Sanitation Installations: Government sanitation funding often focuses on the large-scale municipal infrastructure like waste treatment plants, tending to overlook the construction of supporting connection infrastructure necessary for on-site household sanitation systems. As a result, people have turned to local banks and other financial institutions for loans that would enable them to build the necessary infrastructure necessary to access improved water on a daily basis.
  9. Local Programs Improve Water Sanitation: There are several local efforts that are working to preserve Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap, so as to improve the lives of approximately 100,000 locals living in the surrounding area. The Cambodian enterprise Wetlands Work is selling innovative technologies, such as water purifying system HandyPod that uses bacteria to turn raw sewage into grey water. Meanwhile, the NGO Live & Learn Cambodia is in the process of testing new toilet innovations.
  10. Water Privatization Limits Accessibility: The privatization of water is a common phenomenon in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, for example, European companies Thames Water and Suez have 25-year contracts with the local government in 1997 to provide water for the country’s capital, Jakarta. With the goal of ensuring piped water coverage for 97 percent of the popular by 2017, the actual number came up to only 59.4 percent. However, in Surabaya, another Indonesian city, the government provided water publicly through the government and coverage reached 95.5 percent in 2016. Calculations determine that average water prices in the city are one-third of that in Jakarta.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Southeast Asia show how these countries are making consistent progress in procuring improved sanitation for their population. With the assistance of intergovernmental organizations and nonprofits, more people are now living under safe and sanitary conditions.

– Kiera Yu
Photo: Flickr

Advances in Cambodian Health Care
Cambodia is a country located in Southeastern Asia, bordering Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and the Gulf of Thailand. The Khmer Rouge regime and its actions brought the nation’s mostly positive trajectory to a definitive halt in the 1970s. However, the nation has been rebounding. The recent advances in Cambodian health care illuminate the country’s gains and foreshadow the possibilities for this economically developinging country.

Cambodia‘s regression in the 1970s was significant in its health care field. This is because the Khmer Rouge explicitly targeted the educated and elite in Cambodia during the reign of the regime. In fact, one could easily qualify the regime’s activities as genocide. By the end of the regime’s four-year rule, it is estimated that only 12 doctors remained in Cambodia.

Regardless of the strife and hardships Cambodians faced, those in Cambodia have not lost faith. The Cambodian health care system has made advances from a multitude of angles. Through its work with NGOs and making advancements within its own government by way of reform, Cambodia is developing a just and proper health care system.

Transform Healthcare Cambodia

There are a variety of NGOs offering assistance with the health care crisis in Cambodia. Transform Healthcare Cambodia’s work highlights these efforts. The goal for Transform Healthcare Cambodia is to protect the region from diseases the Southeastern Asian population do not receive treatment for.

With Khmer Rouge eliminating almost all of the country’s doctors, the number of doctors has remained limited. However, by training physicians to diagnose, treat and manage diseases prominent in the region, the organization is taking action against diabetes and many infectious diseases plaguing the region.

The charity accomplishes this by sending its partners to Battambang Provincial Hospital where they train the Cambodian staff in instances of health care. In turn, the existing staff trains future medical professionals.

Governmental Reforms

A health care system is only as strong as the government that supports it. That is why the Second Health Sector Support Program Project (HSSP2) has taken on the task of governmental reform in Cambodia. By improving the coverage and quality of health care, it gives the government a quality guideline to uphold.

By supplying and supporting these health programs, it gives the health care system legs to stand on. Since its involvement, the project has accomplished much in the region, including the following:

  1. Newly trained professionals have successfully delivered 85 percent of babies in Cambodia.
  2. Vaccines administered to children increased by 10 percent from 2010 to 2015.
  3. All of Cambodia’s impoverished receive health care, at approximately 3 million people.
  4.  HHSP2 has added 121 health centers, five health posts, 79 delivery rooms, 15 maternity wards and one pharmacy.
  5. The project has improved water quality, electricity, sanitation and 280 preexisting health centers.
  6. The project established 12 non-communicable disease clinics.

Through strife, struggle and hardship to the extent of genocide, the Cambodian people have persevered. Although Cambodia still requires much work in regards to regulating and sustaining its health care system, the advances the country has made are a clear indicator of growth and a sign of a brighter future.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Reconciliation in Post-Khmer Rouge CambodiaIn August 2019, Nuon Chea, one of the leaders responsible for the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, passed away at the age of 93. His death resurfaced reports of the atrocities experienced in Cambodia between 1975-79, under the rule of the infamous dictator Pol Pot. Yet, Nuon Chea did not undergo prosecution for his crimes until 2018 – 40 years after he committed them.

Due to its scale and recency, one cannot write off the Khmer Rouge as an atrocity of the past. The pursuit of peace and justice for more than 2 million victims of the Khmer Rouge continues today. Friends of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Cambodia is a group that has continued to push for peace in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia despite the fact that the government, much of the population and the international community that wants to forget.

A Community Frozen in Time

In the Anlong Veng region of Cambodia, which housed regime leaders as late as 1998, many still venerate Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and other mass murderers as national heroes. The regime may have fallen 40 years ago, but families who enforced the regime’s brutality on their fellow Cambodians are still unaware of their wrongful actions. Some citizens simply have misinformation or claim to have supported the regime for the promise of security after decades of poverty. Other families followed strict orders on death threats and see themselves as victims despite committing genocide.

Understanding the perspective of those who support the regime is key to longterm peace. R2P member Pou Sovachana advocates for knowledge of the ex-cadre perspectives to yield reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

Friends of R2P’s Dr. Bradley Murg, a political scientist and senior research fellow at the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), emphasized in an interview with The Borgen Project the need to break Anlong Veng members out of their bubble. For decades, “governments have left them to their own devices, afraid to open that box” of reconciliation, Dr. Murg shared. Most were “isolated and genuinely believe that their side was right.” Scarred from the Khmer Rouge’s inadequate leadership and raised with educational “curriculum centered on hatred, anger and revenge,” ex-cadre members need therapy, not prison.

Helping Cambodia Embrace its History

Besides working with ex-members of the Khmer Rouge, Friends of Responsibility to Protect is working to promote justice among Cambodians. Unable to understand their past, many Cambodians live in denial of their history. The Khmer Rouge history museum in Cambodia’s capital city is visited almost exclusively by tourists and not by Cambodian nationals, Dr. Murg noted.

The genocide directly impacted the nation’s population over the age of 40, many of whom still struggle with untreated PTSD. Parents began to raise their children in the shadow of atrocity without an explanation. Ultimately, continued ignorance is detrimental to Cambodia. Both Dr. Murg and his colleague, Professor Sovachana Pou, who works at the CICP and is a Khmer Rouge survivor himself, agree that work is still necessary to help the Cambodian population heal from the past. This is why R2P promotes education and acknowledgment about the atrocities among the younger generation. Its work includes field trips with students to Anlong Veng and stories of ex-Khmer Rouge perpetrators in local newspapers in an effort to encourage mutual understanding.

Finishing Justice

People must recognize Friends of R2P’s work for reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia in the context of delayed criminal justice. Dr. Murg explained how, due to the political dynamics of the U.S. and Cambodia, many of the Khmer Rouge leaders did not receive charges for their crimes. The sentencing of Nuon Chea by a U.N. court in 2018 – 40 years after the crimes – exemplifies the uneven justice delivered to the Khmer Rouge perpetrators. Even the head of the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot, never received a sentence and died of natural causes in his home in 1998.

In an effort to fix its past mistakes, Cambodia established a court in the first part of the 21st century to bring justice to the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Pou reminded The Borgen Project that legal justice is only the first step to the real justice that needs to be felt in the hearts of Cambodians. The peace between mainstream Cambodians and ex-Khmer Rouge members, like those living in Anlong Veng, is the next step in the journey to justice. This is why the Anlong Veng Peace Center and Friends of R2P are promoting education, historic preservation and communication between ex-Khmer Rouge members and the families of victims.

While 2019 marks the 40-year anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s fall from power, reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia continues. What is most hopeful, however, is the willingness for reconciliation among Khmer Rouge victims. People, like Sovachana Pou, who narrowly escaped Cambodia and saw the deaths of their family have offered forgiveness for the sake of rebuilding Cambodia. The key is to recognize that there are victims on both sides of the Khmer Rouge. Friends of Responsibility to Protect’s work is beautifully acknowledging the stories of all Cambodians to rebuild social trust.

Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr