The Cambodian Fish Industry
The Cambodian fish industry is vital to the nation’s food security and economy. Recent support that USAID provided has bolstered the skills, knowledge and resources of those engaged in the fish market. This action provides positive assistance to strengthen a vital system within an impoverished country.

The Importance of the Cambodian Fish Industry

Cambodia depends on the strength of its fishing industry, both for the economy and for the nourishment of the general population. It is estimated that its fisheries produce around 2.1 million tonnes of fish per year. According to Open Development Cambodia, “The country holds two world records: the highest catch of inland fisheries per capita and the highest consumption of freshwater fish per capita.” Since seafood is so ingrained in Cambodian society, growths within this field have the ability to reduce poverty and raise the quality of living for inhabitants. As of 2019, 17.8% of the population lived below the poverty line. Two separate projects that USAID produced are fostering positive growth within the Cambodian fishing industry, showing promising implications for future success.

New Fishway Development

The first of these projects reached completion on August 24, 2022. USAID funded the creation of two new fishways to increase accessibility to fishing in the Pursat Province. Prior to the official construction of the new fishways, two demonstrative fish passes were constructed in 2019 and 2021 to act as proof of concept. Because the passes correctly showed the possible impact of the final plan, USAID moved forward with the project shortly after.

These new routes will allow fish to avoid irrigation structures and travel upstream, touching communities in otherwise unreachable areas. USAID states that “These fishways also demonstrate that small-scale fish passes are a feasible, relatively inexpensive solution to the problem of declining fish stocks,” which provides a sense of optimism for future use of similar ventures. The new fishways will allow growth within the crucial Cambodian fish industry.

Nutritional Information Database

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, is another USAID program. A Cambodian researcher by the name of Chakriya Chum has been collecting fish samples across the country for more than a year, for the sole purpose of creating a nutritional database focused on the fishing industry. Feed the Future has supported her work in the hopes of spreading dietary knowledge across Columbia.

Because the population is so highly reliant on fish, it is important for citizens to understand the differences between each type. Chum stated that “Knowledge and research [generated with and] transferred to the community will improve health, fish processing and their livelihood.” The database includes information about best practices for preservation, which will hopefully increase national food security. In addition to the general population, policymakers and farmers can utilize this information to help them create more productive practices.

Both USAID projects provide support for the Cambodian fish industry, an important factor in national food security and economic matters. In the coming years, these programs may be able to expand to neighboring areas and expand in size to create greater change on an international level.

– Hailey Dooley
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in CambodiaElderly poverty in Cambodia is widespread. HelpAge Cambodia reports that, in Cambodia, “one out of four older people live below the poverty line” and more than “80% of older people live in rural areas with limited infrastructure and resources.”

Introductory Statistics

Cambodia has an inadequate social security net with a very limited pension system, only extending to those who worked in the public sector. As such, many elderly people have no financial security and continue working despite health problems, often in labor-intensive jobs.

This problem is also exacerbated by the fact that the elderly literacy rate in Cambodia among people 65 and older stood at only 53.1% as of 2015, impacting the elderly population’s ability to retire reasonably well.

Of note, older persons in Cambodia experienced and survived genocide between 1975 and 1979 at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and prior to this, the Cambodian civil war in 1970. Research reveals that the genocide led to the deaths of 75% of Cambodia’s educators and 96% of university students. The loss of teachers led to a whole generation of Cambodian children missing out on education. For this reason, today, a large portion of Cambodia’s elderly are illiterate.

The coronavirus pandemic also had an overwhelming impact on elderly poverty in Cambodia. A 2021 study conducted by HelpAge aimed to uncover the impacts of the pandemic on older Cambodians. About 55% of study participants said the pandemic impacted their overall family income, citing reasons such as job losses or reduced earnings of their children and delayed or significantly reduced remittances.

Additionally, 72% of participants confirmed that they did not receive adequate food support to meet their minimum needs and 85% said they did not receive adequate support to obtain necessary medications.

The Aging Population and the Social Security Net

As with many other areas around the world, an aging population comes with disadvantages. For example, “a decline in the working-age population and a surge in health care costs.” Additionally, large numbers of elderly people depend on small numbers of working-age people to fund “higher health costs, pension benefits and other publicly funded programs” through taxes, Investopedia explains.

Aging populations are often more dependent on government support, posing a problem in Cambodia as the elderly do not receive adequate support from a social assistance program. The Cambodian government does not provide social assistance programs that specifically target the elderly, although there are social assistance programs targeting poorer households. However, these programs tend to exclude impoverished older people who do not have the correct identification or documentation.

Efforts Underway to Address Elderly Poverty in Cambodia

In July 2022, the Cambodian government launched a social security pension fund for private sector employees, which will work as a future prevention measure for elderly poverty. This follows the attempted implementation of this pension scheme in 2019, which came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In terms of NGOs, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia partners with vulnerable groups, including older persons, to build affordable safe housing with elements “that focus on water and energy efficiency.” Through its efforts, since 2003, Habitat Cambodia “has enabled [more than] 22,000 families to build strength stability and self-reliance through shelter.”

HelpAge is an organization working toward improving the lives of older people across the world. With a specific country office in Cambodia, HelpAge has partnered with Cambodia’s Ministry of Health since 1992. Its projects involve building “age-inclusive and disaster-resilient communities in Cambodia.” Its first activities in Cambodia were associated with “eye care delivery” for elderly people.

With commitment, the government and NGOs can address elderly poverty in Cambodia through improved social security measures, ensuring a better quality of life for older people.

– Priya Maiti
Photo: Flickr

Cambodia’s Drinking Water CrisisCambodia is a Southeastern Asian country known for drastically decreasing its poverty rates from 47.8% of the population in 2007 to 13.5% in 2014. Despite a reduction in poverty rates, Cambodia suffers from a drinking water crisis due to a lack of sanitation. The consequences of this crisis are life-threatening, however, a number of organizations are fighting Cambodia’s drinking water crisis to maintain its climb to prosperity.

Cambodia’s Drinking Water Crisis

One in three Cambodians drinks water from a non-improved or non-reliable source. While the country has improved in sanitation, this improvement is primarily present in urban areas such as Phnom Penh, which is Cambodia’s capital. Basic sanitation in urban areas increased from 49% to 88% in 2015, but only 39% of the rural population has basic sanitation, and only 24% drink water from a clean, regulated water source. Children in rural areas are also two times more likely to drink from contaminated drinking sources than urban children. Seeing as how 61% of the Cambodian population lives in rural areas, it is clear that the majority of the population is suffering.

Moreover, eight in 10 Cambodians living in rural areas defecate in open bodies of water due to a lack of toilets, according to UNICEF. This open defecation leads to coliform and E. coli, which are both disease-causing bacteria, in drinking water. Sadly, diarrhea contributes to most of the under-five child deaths in Cambodia and can lead to stunted and impaired brain development.

Water.org

Starting its work in Cambodia in 2014, Water.org is a global nonprofit that brings clean water and sanitation to countries around the world. The organization uses microfinance, which is a service provided to those who usually don’t have access to banking or financial services. Water.org, through its WaterCredit Initiative program, partners with financial institutions willing to supply small loans to locals. These locals then use the loans to install toilets in their homes so they no longer have to defecate in open bodies of water.

The organization had a goal of reaching 300,000 Cambodians in three years, but they met the goal in two. Overall, in Cambodia, Water.org has reached 1.9 million people, disbursed 435,000 loans and achieved an average repayment rate of 99%.

Cambodians Community Dream Organization (CCDO)

Working in Cambodia for 15 years, the Cambodian Community Dream Organization (CCDO) aids villages surrounding Siem Reap through its Clean Water program. Through the program, the organization has provided ceramic filters as an alternative to boiling to save fuel, hygiene workshops to educate locals on the importance of hand-washing and over 1,500 water wells.

The most notable part of the CCDO’s work is its water well repair program. The CCDO does not believe in building wells and does not consider the future damages to the wells. Instead, they provide a program that works to regularly examine, replace or fix worn wells.

In addition to the Clean Water program, the organization has also installed 600 latrines since January 2014.

Clear Cambodia

Formed in 2010, Clear Cambodia is a local NGO that recognizes the consequences of E. Coli infections. The organization emphasizes how they are a program run for Cambodians by Cambodians. The organization has impacted 2,527,628 Cambodians through its projects.

Clear Cambodia is famous for fighting against Cambodia’s drinking water Crisis through their household biosand filters. Biosand filters are an adaptation to sand filters found in nature as the sand and gravel remove pathogens and other solids from water. Biosand filters can remove up to 98.5% of bacteria from contaminated drinking water. Clear Cambodia has provided 339,662 biosand filters to households and an additional 1,547 biosand filters to schools. In addition to these filters, the organization has also allocated 236,140 handwashing tools,  installed 11,206 household latrines, implemented 1,539 handwashing stations and provided 212 wells.

A Better Future

As Cambodia’s poverty rates decrease, its drinking water crisis does not seem too far behind. Cambodia’s government is committed to reaching 100% coverage of rural sanitation services by 2025, as evidenced by a bold 14-year plan drawn out in 2011. With organizations like Water.org, the CCDO and Clear Cambodia doing their part to fight the drinking water crisis, there is great optimism that the nation will make it through this challenge in good time.

– Blanly Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Tonle Sap’s Villagers in Cambodia
Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country with a rich historical past that attracts many tourists, had almost 18% of its population living below the national poverty line in 2019, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Among the various tourist attractions in Cambodia, the floating villages on Lake Tonle Sap are probably the most unique – villagers from there are mainly ethnic Vietnamese who are both poor and stateless. While Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the world’s biggest inland fisheries, the villagers’ incomes are insecure. However, without Cambodian citizenship, it is difficult for those villagers to go elsewhere to look for other jobs. In many ways, most villagers would not choose to live on the water if they had another choice. Knowing the circumstances of the villagers, some volunteers have reached out. This article will look at three organizations that have taken steps to help Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers in Cambodia.

Conservation International (CI)

With offices set up throughout Asia-Pacific, CI works with local and national governments, the private sector and indigenous communities to achieve one of its main aims – to improve food security for needy communities. Therefore, in Cambodia’s case, the organization set its eyes on Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers, and more specifically, on female villagers.

In the villages, fishing is the main occupation for both men and women. However, women are also responsible for smoking fish or turning the fish into Cambodia’s popular condiment, prahok. Yet, they do not receive sufficient income for such labor-intensive jobs.

To improve the livelihood of women and their efficiency in processing fish, CI offers training sessions on marketing skills and packaging techniques. Moreover, the organization also provides fuel-efficient stoves for the villagers, lessening their time smoking fish. With CI’s help, women’s incomes have increased notably, changing the conventional perceptions of women’s contributions to their communities within the villages.

Osmose

Osmose has the objective of improving the livelihood of Lake Tonle Sap’s residents through the conservation of the area. For instance, the organization has developed ecotourism in one of the floating villages, Prek Toal. Riding on boats, tourists can visit a bird sanctuary in flooded forests guided by bird guides and fish and crocodile rising farms. There are also on-site accommodations for tourists who want to stay overnight. Since Prek Toal’s villagers are in charge of the different services and activities, this generates direct income for the locals. Therefore, with the help of Osmose, the villagers can have a more secure livelihood.

In addition, profits generated from ecotourism can help the locals in another way – to enhance the development of Prek Toal. For example, Osmose can build more essential facilities in the village, such as water filters and schools.

Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Like Osmose, GNF understands the importance of ecotourism for Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers. Unlike Osmose, GNF focuses on the water supply and hygiene of the area. According to GNF’s website, villagers do not have safe water to drink. Consequently, they need to drink polluted lake water or purchase drinking water from the mainland.

To ensure local inhabitants have a clean water supply, the organization builds a floating water kiosk with an ultrafiltration system. Meanwhile, GNF also forms a local water committee to manage the water infrastructure.

With the new water infrastructure, not only can local villagers have better health, but they also can have an alternative job and income other than fishing. According to GNF, seven people are now working at the water kiosk.

Overall, the floating villages on Lake Tonle Sap are unique places in Cambodia. For many villagers, living on the water is not easy, and many are financially insecure. Fortunately, organizations such as CI, Osmose and GNF have taken the lead in helping the local inhabitants. Gradually, the lives of Tonle Sap’s villagers in Cambodia have improved.

– Mimosa Ngai

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Cambodia
Cambodia’s economy has improved drastically over recent years, and this growth has followed a considerable poverty reduction in Cambodia. According to a study by Asian Development Bank (ADB), the national income per capita increased from $250 in 1998 to $795 in 2008. Furthermore, Cambodia’s economy sustained an average annual growth rate of 7.7% between the years 1998 and 2019, setting a record high for developing nations around the world.

Garment Industry

Cambodia’s economy solely rests upon its agriculture industry, tourism, garment production industry and construction industry. The garment industry, in particular, has boomed in recent years and contributed heavily to the nation’s economic development. For example, 40% of garments that the European Union (EU) receives come from Cambodia. This number totals 30% for the United States, 9% for Canada and 4% for Japan. Multinational brands such as Adidas, Gap, H&M, Marks and Spencer and Uniqlo have garment factories located in Cambodia. Furthermore, the garment production sector in Cambodia has employed more than 600,000 Cambodians and accounts for more than 16% of the national gross domestic product (GDP).

Strides in Public Health

Development in other fields, such as public health, has followed poverty reduction in Cambodia. According to the World Bank, the nation’s life expectancy has also increased from 58 years in 2000 to 70 years in 2020. The under-five mortality rate decreased from 106.3 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 26.6 per 1,000 live births in the year 2019. The national government is buckling down on its commitment to the Health Equity and Quality Improvement Project (H-EQIP). The project, issued in 2016, has a commitment to implementing better health care for all Cambodian citizens.

The Cambodian Ministry of Health (MOH) has also initiated special services to help underserved communities and regions within the nation. An example of this is the voucher program for women’s reproductive services. Through the program, grants go to referral hospitals across the nation to help them better serve those in need. In addition to such programs, USAID has worked in Partnership with Cambodia in the last five years to further its public health systems. USAID has helped to train medical staff in tuberculosis management information systems in 47 hospitals across the nation. USAID has also distributed more than 37,000 mosquito nets to dengue and malaria-prone areas in Cambodia.

Future Strategies

Going forward, the Cambodian government has future plans to further eliminate poverty within their nation. The Cambodia Sustainable Development Goals 2016-2030, National Poverty Reduction Strategy 2003-2005 and the National Strategic Development Plan 2019-2023 are all key cornerstones for Cambodia’s development. The key focus of poverty reduction initiatives has roots in implementing better social protection, ensuring equal access to economic resources and protecting ownership over land and property – three pillars that can support poverty reduction in Cambodia.

Attending to Infrastructural Gaps

The World Bank Group’s work in Cambodia has a focus on adopting a rectangular strategy for development. The World Bank Group plans to address issues such as a lack of human capital, infrastructural gaps and limited professional development programs in Cambodia. A prerequisite for these goals is improving access to education in Cambodia, which in itself can be an antidote to poverty. Since 2016, 97.7% of all Cambodian children have attended school. Furthermore, student drop-out rates have plummeted both in cities and rural areas. These are all positive signs of progress that depict further poverty reduction in Cambodia.

Given the multilateral development that has taken place in Cambodia in the last decade, the nation has surpassed the lower middle-income tier and is now on its way to becoming an upper-middle-income nation by 2030. With sustained effort, collaboration and attention to infrastructural development, Cambodia has the potential to further its economy whilst eradicating poverty within its borders.

– Samyudha Rajesh
Photo: Unsplash

Feed the Future
Feed the Future is a project that aims to address food insecurity in countries around the world. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) coordinates the program between local actors in chosen countries and various agencies within the federal government of the United States. One of the main goals of Feed the Future is to foster the development of regional agricultural markets in the countries in which it works, thus promoting long-term sustainability. Other goals of Feed the Future include the expansion of technologies shared between agricultural communities and positive changes in nutrition, particularly for mothers and children. Notably, Feed the Future works with universities to fund agricultural research as well as national governments and private employers to improve agricultural policy and the economy. One of the recipients of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative is Cambodia, where 45% of the population experience food insecurity and 77% of people in rural areas rely on agriculture as their livelihood.

Improvements in Agriculture Yields Lower Poverty Rates

During 2004 and 2012, improvements to agriculture in Cambodia helped reduce poverty from 53% to 18%. This decrease occurred in part due to increased use of land for farming and expansion of technologies such as fertilizers, irrigation and mechanization. However, the growth of the agriculture industry in Cambodia began to slow the following year, necessitating a renewal of policy changes and programs to boost long-term output.

Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest II

With assistance from USAID, the Feed the Future initiative in Cambodia created a program called Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest II began in 2017 and lasted through 2022. The program successfully generated more than 2,500 jobs and boosted agricultural policy. The direct economic impact of the program resulted in “$28 million of new private sector investments” and “$75 million of incremental sales” for businesses.

Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest III

Due to the recent success of Harvest II, United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken unveiled the continuation of the program with Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest III, or simply Harvest III, on August 4, 2022. This program is a further $25 million investment in agriculture in Cambodia over five years. USAID will continue to coordinate the program and will work with local technological and economic institutions and agricultural actors to improve both the job and product markets. The government expects that the program will create “$38 million in new private sector investments” and “ $100 million in sales,” which represents a significant improvement from the previous success of Harvest II.

The following week, on August 9, 2022, the United States Ambassador to Cambodia, W. Patrick Murphy, affirmed the start of Harvest III with the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, H.E. Veng Sakhon in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. After an almost $100 million investment in agriculture in Cambodia, Ambassador Murphy expresses hope that the continuation of Harvest III will maintain progress in improving agriculture and nutrition, especially among women and children in Cambodia.

– Kaylee Messick
Photo: Flickr

poverty reduction in Cambodia
Over the last decade, poverty reduction in Cambodia has successfully reached and exceeded governmental goals. Significant economic growth and an increase in earnings allowed Cambodia to reduce poverty by more than half since 2009.

History of Poverty and Instability in Cambodia

In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge, a communist movement, took control of Cambodia. Through a five-year civil war, it was able to gain control of the country, maintaining control for the following four years.

The ultimate goal of the Khmer Rouge was to transform Cambodia into an entirely agrarian state, and it did this by slaughtering anyone perceived to be an intellectual and by emptying the country’s cities. The Khmer Rouge movement killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians during the four-year period that Khmer Rouge had control, and even more people died from disease or starvation.

Despite a short four-year reign for the Khmer Rouge, 30 years of violence and instability followed. Cambodia now had to recover from a massive genocidal effort, the effects of which resulted in as much as 40% of the population still in poverty by 2009.

Poverty Reduction Efforts

Following the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia underwent the daunting task of reopening itself to the international market and rebuilding its governmental structure. According to the World Bank, “Cambodia’s open borders to international trade and investment have helped attract foreign direct investment to support manufacturing, construction, and tourism.” Such efforts have resulted in consistent economic growth.

The Cambodian government has committed to revising its poverty line procedure every 15 years. This is necessary because rapid economic growth requires consistent reevaluation of poverty standards and allows the government to better monitor poverty reduction in Cambodia. The current poverty line requires someone to earn less than $2.70 a day to be considered in poverty.

Additionally, a new cash transfer program launched in June 2020, benefitting around 2.8 million Cambodians. This program demonstrates the continuous and novel efforts of the Cambodian government toward once again creating economic and political stability throughout.

Poverty Reduction Effects

As a result of the aforementioned efforts, around 17.8% of the Cambodian population was in poverty as of 2020, compared to 40% in 2009. This means that in just over a decade, poverty in Cambodia has reduced by more than half.

The Cambodian government has successfully exceeded its poverty reduction goals. While it committed to an annual 1% decrease, it has achieved an annual 1.6% decrease.

Quality of life factors has also improved. According to the World Bank, “from 2000 to 2017, life expectancy increased from 58 years to 69; the under-five mortality rate decreased from 107 to 29 per 1,000 live births; and primary school completion rate increased from 51% to 90%.”

Efforts in poverty reduction in Cambodia over the past decade have been overwhelmingly successful. A combination of international trade and government oversight has allowed for economic growth within Cambodia, increasing stability for those living there. The results reflect significant reductions in poverty across the country.

– Eleanor Corbin
Photo: Flickr

tpo-cambodia-leading-mental-health-awareness-in-cambodiaOrganizations like TPO Cambodia are combatting mental health issues in Cambodia in order to create a stronger and well-off nation by raising awareness of the situation and developing community-building solutions.

Poverty in Cambodia

There are several substantial poverty issues in Cambodia needing addressing. According to Asian Development Bank (ADB), 17.8% of Cambodians are living below the poverty line. Additionally, 9.2% of the nation is living on $1.90 or less a day.

This could relate to mental health issues since Cambodia is a country with one of the highest risks of mental health-related issues. It is estimated that 40% of Cambodians suffer from mental health issues. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicide rates are also higher than the worldwide average.

Poverty and Mental Health

Studies have shown that mental health issues among individuals lead to higher rates of impoverishment from struggling to remain employed or find employment. Furthermore, economic conditions are one of the foundations of mental wellness. This means that when one is living in a more deprived area you are more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

According to the BJPsych Bulletin study, 23% of men and 26% of women had mental distress potentially related to a psychological disorder in the most impoverished areas in Scotland, compared with 12% and 16% of men and women on the opposite side of the economic spectrum.

Mental Health in Children

Psychological problems often start at a young age and can have serious consequences as individuals progress through life. This starts people at a social disadvantage lacking stability to keep long-lasting relationships. Additionally, child psychological problems also lead to economic issues. Researchers found family income for those aged 50 who suffered childhood traumas decreased by 25%.

TPO Cambodia

This is an organization directly confronting the issues mental health brings by trying to identify problems Cambodians are experiencing to help them better function in their jobs, families and societies as a whole.

TPO Cambodia works to provide local community-building mental health programs that offer more effective and cost-friendly care than mental hospitals which can lead to dehumanizing patients.

The ultimate goals of their programs are to educate Cambodians on mental health issues and become more aware of previously unseen issues in their own lives. Healing scars and social conflict are also important so that Cambodian citizens feel more invigorated and active to be able to actively participate in society.

Since its establishment in 1995, more than 200,000 Cambodians received mental health care and support.

Mental health is a serious issue in the world today. Traumas often start at young ages and can have serious consequences on the economic and societal well beings of citizens. However, with organizations such as TPO Cambodia tackling this issue, more and more are becoming aware of mental health and its effects and are receiving treatment.

Alex Havardansky
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Cambodia
Human trafficking in Cambodia is consistently on the rise. Therefore, the U.S. State Department has classified the nation as a Tier 2 Watch List country for the third year in a row due to its limited efforts to combat trafficking. This ranking means that “the Government of Cambodia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” All of Cambodia’s 25 provinces are sources of human trafficking and exploitation of women, men and children. According to World Vision, “Cambodia is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked into sexual exploitation and forced labor.” In 2001, the coalition of 16 organizations, Cambodia against Child Trafficking (Cambodia ACTs), came into existence. Cambodia ACTs serves 22 provinces and municipalities to ensure all Cambodian children live a life free from trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

A Closer Look at Human Trafficking in Cambodia

The Global Slavery Index, a study of the prevalence of modern slavery, ranked Cambodia third out of 167 countries in 2016 in terms of the prevalence of modern slavery in the nation. This is a very poor ranking as the estimated number of people facing modern slavery in Cambodia in 2016 stood at 256,800, which equates to 1.65% of the population.

Why is this? According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, most human trafficking incidents in Cambodia materialize as forced marriages, trafficking for marriages, forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation forced begging and orphanage tourism. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated human trafficking in Cambodia due to the increasing vulnerability of populations as a consequence of rising poverty levels and widespread unemployment.

According to the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey for 2019/20, at the newly defined national poverty line of $2.70 per person per day, 18% of the population faces poverty. Without enough money to provide for themselves and their families, Cambodians are at increased risk of trafficking lures and often look to child labor to make ends meet. Sometimes families unknowingly send their children to work in environments that are exploitative and unsafe to make extra money. In the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2018, the U.S. State Department deemed Cambodia one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of human trafficking.

How Cambodia ACTs Helps

Cambodia ACTs offer survivors a safe place to share their stories anonymously as it believes silence only aids in the problem of human trafficking. This is why Cambodia ACTs works tirelessly to raise awareness of human trafficking and educate and aid children who are at risk, all while strengthening Cambodian laws to stop human trafficking.

Cambodia ACTs uses a 4P strategy to combat the trafficking of children: prevention, prosecution, provision and promotion. Cambodia ACTs prevent trafficking through education, awareness-raising activities and workshops in the community. The coalition aids in the prosecution of perpetrators and seeks justice for victims. As for provision, Cambodia ACTs provides for survivors by offering essential care, social services and psychological assistance. Lastly, its promotion activities involve working with government agencies to enact policy change.

How to Aid Survivors

The work of Cambodia ACTs has continued to expand since its start in 2001. However, this is only possible due to the generosity of people who wish to see human trafficking come to an end. Through donations and grants, Cambodia ACTs can continue to fight human trafficking. In 2015, using its prevention strategy, Cambodia ACTs gave “awareness training” to 25,000 Cambodian adults and children. In addition to this, Cambodia ACTs created “6,000 posters, 5,000 leaflets, 4,000 stickers and [four] billboards” to help end human trafficking in Cambodia. To help Cambodia ACTs continue its great mission, even ordinary individuals can play a role by donating or using social media to raise awareness.

– Kaley Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Agent Orange Affect Southeast Asia
During the Cold War, the policy of containment dominated U.S. foreign policy. The policy of containment is the concept that one can most effectively combat communism by fighting it whenever and wherever it appears. Vietnam came into the crosshairs of the U.S. because the U.S. feared the Soviet influence that was taking hold of the country. Evidently, this policy barely distinguished between neutrality and open hostility and led to the use of agent orange and the U.S. bombings of officially neutral Cambodia and Laos.

Cold War Bombs in Southeast Asia

From 1961 to 1975, beginning with the secret war in Laos and closing with the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped 2.7 million tons of ordnance, including 26 million cluster bomblets in Cambodia. The U.S. dropped more than 2.1 million tons of ordnance on Laos and 8 million tons of ordnance in Vietnam.

As of 2021, injuries and fatalities because of the campaigns number nearly 64,931 people in Cambodia, 25,000 people in Laos and more than 100,000 people in Vietnam. The crisis at hand is that the legacy of these wars is still severely impacting people living in Southeast Asia. A notable amount of bombs did not detonate on impact, UXOs (Unexploded Ordnances), and these UXOs are still taking lives in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam today. The estimated percentage of ordnance that did not explode that remain are respectively 25% for Cambodia, 33% for Laos and 10% for Vietnam.

Agent Orange in Southeast Asia

Agent Orange was a mixture of herbicides created to eliminate vegetation that the U.S. military sprayed in Vietnam and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a trail that spills over into Cambodia and Laos, with the intent of killing vegetation that guerilla fighters were using for cover. By the end of the Vietnam war, the U.S. had sprayed more than 11 million gallons of Agent Orange on Vietnam, with spray drifting into Cambodia and Laos.

The agent resulted in generations of birth defects and chronic health issues including cancer, heart disease, shortened or missing limbs and developmental disabilities that affect both those who had exposure to Agent Orange and their descendants. The damage from the usage of Agent Orange is extensive, for it still deteriorates the health of hundreds of thousands of people and their children in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the U.S. in the case of veterans who served.

Ameliorating this situation has an added difficulty, the State Department has a split stance. The VA publicly concedes that Agent Orange spray did drift into Cambodia and Laos. Upon being asked about dioxin [Agent Orange], a State Department spokesperson responded that “The legacy of dioxin is a complex issue; and one that the U.S. and Vietnamese governments have collaborated on since 2000,” exclusively referring to Vietnam when Laos and Cambodia have also experienced the effect of how U.S. usage of Agent Orange complicates global efforts to right the wrongs.

UXO Removal: Cambodia and Laos

One State Department partner making a difference in Cambodia and Laos is the HALO Trust, a notable humanitarian landmine and UXO removal organization. Thanks in part to the advocacy efforts of the HALO Trust, there was an increase in Congressional funding for demining efforts in Vietnam and the region, $7 million for Vietnam and $25 million for the region. The combined efforts of the HALO Trust and their local community partners led to the remarkable achievement of dismantling over 575,000 landmines and UXOs in Cambodia and Laos.

Fighting Agent Orange: Vietnam

Dr. Charles R. Bailey, head of the Ford Foundation and agricultural economist, funded a study that led to a monumental breakthrough in fighting Agent Orange. Until this study, there was widespread fear and uncertainty pertaining to how to deal with Agent Orange. However, this study led to the discovery that dioxin [Agent Orange] was no longer a danger in the general landscape of Vietnam, rather it was concentrated only in a few hotspots. This discovery is what made it possible to clean up Agent Orange contaminations so the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia can finally begin to heal from this wretched legacy of war.

Additionally, this discovery got the legacy of the Cold War in Southeast Asia into American policy circles, executive and Congressional. As Dr. Bailey recalled his time in Vietnam in the late 1990s, he found U.S. diplomats in the embassy were under the direction of the State Department to not even utter the words “Agent Orange.”

The nature of the debate has surpassed this point in the past 20 years, hence the bipartisan support that has come to the floor for funding UXO removals and Agent Orange clean-ups. As of 2022, the U.S. government has spent $400 million to address environmental cleanup and health effects of Agent Orange with the money going towards clean up and persons with disabilities in Vietnam since 1991. This development presents a promising shift in U.S. foreign policy, taking greater responsibility for the legacy of its war in Vietnam. A hopeful start towards extending not only UXO removals to Laos and Cambodia, but also a recognition of the need to fight Agent Orange in the countries as well.

Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr