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The current situation: Some statistics Nearly thirty years after the brutal Khmer Rouge regime plunged Cambodia into a state of terror, years of civil war and famine, the country is slowly returning to stability. The devastating effect to Cambodian society, infrastructure and the economy, however, is still being felt today. One of the greatest challenges facing the development of the country is access to education, skills training and healthcare.

  • There are 14.5 million people living in Cambodia (UNICEF). 
  • 41% of the population is under 18 (UNICEF).
  • 30.1% of Cambodians live below the poverty line (UNICEF).
  • The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite measure of longevity, educational attainment and standard of living. The HDI score for Cambodia in 2013 was estimated at 0.543 (UNICEF). The country with an HDI rank of 1 (Norway) is considered the most developed; the country with an HDI rank of 186 (Niger) is considered the least developed. Cambodia's HDI rank was 138 (UNDP).
  • 28% of children under 5 years of age are moderately or severely underweight (UNICEF).

  • Almost 40% of children are chronically malnourished (World Food Programme).
  • An estimated 63,000 people of all ages are living with HIV (UNICEF, 2009).

In busy tourist areas, such as Siem Reap, local people have become aware that tourist dollars can be obtained easily by selling low cost items such as jewellery, postcards, books, roses or by begging on the street. The majority of this is done by children as their smiles and energy wins the hearts of almost every visitor. Unfortunately this money often leads to negative outcomes by providing a disposable income to parents that ends up being spent on vices such as drinking, gambling and drug abuse. Children are also pressured to earn more and more money, and are often not allowed to return home until specific targets have been reached. This leaves them roaming the streets for long periods of the day and night and puts them at high risk of physical and/or mental abuse.