Although Cambodia is now enjoying peace after more than 30 years of conflict and political instability, it remains one of south-east Asia’s least developed countries. It still suffers from a shortage of qualified people in all areas of work (including nurses, doctors, teachers, lecturers and managers).
VSO has been working in Cambodia continuously since 1991 and remains firmly committed to the development of Cambodia’s people. So far, nearly 700 international volunteers have supported 152 partners in 15 provinces.
Our core programmes areas are health, education, secure livelihoods and governance. Within these programme areas we cover other issues such as gender equality and climate change. Our strategic plan (2012-17) focuses on the poorest communities in the north-east of the country where we feel the biggest impact can be achieved.
We have been working with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports for over 10 years to implement highly successful programmes. We are regarded as a leading organisation in the Cambodian education sector.
In the four provinces in the north-east of Cambodia, children face gender, disability, cultural and linguistic barriers to education. Teachers are regularly absent, classrooms are poorly maintained and lacking in quality teaching materials. Many teachers are unaware of child-centered teaching practices and have very limited in-service training.
Working with our partners, our main focus is to ensure that primary age children in our target provinces can access a quality education in reading and literacy (grades 1 to 3). We will also work to strengthen teaching skills and increase the availability of quality teaching materials.
There has been considerable progress made over the last decade to improve the health of the nation. However, continuing challenges include high maternal, neonatal, infant and under-five mortality rates, which remain amongst the worst in south-east Asia.
Many illnesses and deaths occur from conditions that are preventable and treatable. Unhealthy living practices often continue because of a lack of adequate water and sanitation, insufficient knowledge of home care and public health services, traditional beliefs and chronic poverty. The public health sector, especially in rural areas, has poorly equipped facilities, insufficient trained staff and a weak referral system. Public health staff receive very low wages and the quality of clinical practice is low. VSO volunteers are working to increase the quality, range and uptake of reproductive, child health and nutrition services and the adoption of healthy living practices.
The overall aim of our health programme is to strengthen the capacity of sub national government and civil society to improve access to high quality and coordinated services. The focus of our interventions and partnerships will be to increase access to high quality services, improve service delivery, especially for ethnic minorities. Ultimately, we aim to contribute to a decrease in mortality and morbidity for newborns, children under five and women during pregnancy and childbirth.
Rural poverty in Cambodia remains high with 35% of people living on less than US$1 a day. Eighty-five per cent of the country’s poor live in rural areas and earn their living through agriculture and natural resources.
Fisheries and livestock currently contribute to around 13% of Cambodia’s gross domestic product and are at the heart of Cambodia’s development. Over 60% of the population depend on income generated in fisheries. However, communities are facing serious food shortages due to growing population pressure, a decline in fish caused by over fishing and illegal fishing, and a lack of appropriate management, regulation and enforcement.
Our livelihood programme is committed to improving the food security of local communities. Volunteers will help implement the government’s fisheries and livestock strategic planning framework and ensure the sustainability of natural resources.
We’ll work to increase community income by developing sustainable alternative livelihoods opportunities as well as facilitating the sharing of best practices. And we’ll help poor people engage in the local economy and participate in the management of their local natural resources.
Governance is a new area of work for VSO Cambodia. The Government of Cambodia aims to develop, strengthen and expand local democracy and VSO will be supporting elected bodies to fulfil their political role. We’ll work with Commune Councils and District Councils so they can improve their skills, competency and resources to deliver public services. We’ll also support communities to use and get the most out of these councils.
We’ll work with the elected bodies to build their capability to better plan, discharge their responsibilities and govern their communities or provinces. A variety of methods will be employed including baseline assessments, coaching, study tours, training courses and regular networking events. We will share what we learn at national level to influence policy or practice at a wider level.
Get in touch with VSO Cambodia at:
PO Box 912, Phnom Penh, Cambodia