Under Pressure: Cambodia's Rapidly Expanding Population
a population of 14.3 million people, almost one third of whom live below the
poverty line, Cambodia faces many challenges now and in the years ahead.
Although generational poverty is a serious problem in Cambodia, the country's
steadily increasing population is also placing significant pressure on the
government and aid organizations. Rural areas in particular often lack the
resources necessary to adequately support low-income families, and many
children don't receive the start they need in life.
The reasons behind Cambodia's population growth are complex.
Conflicts spilling over from the Vietnam War and internal warfare in the 1970s
displaced thousands of families, making migration from rural to urban areas or
to other countries commonplace as people tried to escape the fighting. Since
1993, when the nation was rebuilt under a new government, many Cambodians have
returned to their homeland from neighboring countries such as Thailand.
Although the country has seen economic growth, the population increase has
placed additional pressure on a country already ravaged by years of war. In the
intervening years, natural population growth accelerated, resulting in even
fewer available resources.
Fluctuating fertility rates have also played a
considerable part in Cambodia's expanding population. In the 1950s and 1960s,
fertility rates were much higher than they are today, resulting in many more
children being born. In 2010, according to the Cambodian Demographic and Health
Survey, the average woman has three children, although women in urban areas
tend to have fewer children than those in rural regions. In the same year, more
than 30 percent of the population was under the age of 15.
rates stabilized following the conflicts of the 1970s, the Population Reference
Bureau predicts that by 2025, Cambodian families will surpass "replacement levels" of
fertility, a statistical measure indicating that two parents have only two
children. If these projections are accurate, Cambodia is at a critical junction
in terms of having the resources to support its population.
Poverty is more pronounced in rural parts of Cambodia.
Insufficient access to education, health care and nutritious food remain
enduring challenges, and many of the country's poorest families struggle to
Many children simply cannot attend school because they must work
to support their families. This results in a perpetuating cycle of poverty that
is difficult to break, because without literacy and other skills, children
stand little chance of emerging from poverty later in life.
challenge is to expand access to healthy water sources. According to UNICEF,
only 64 percent of the Cambodian population had access to clean drinking water
in 2010, forcing millions of people to drink unclean water that can carry preventable diseases
caused by waterborne bacteria. In addition, approximately 40 percent of
Cambodian children suffered from moderate to severe stunting between 2007 and
2011, and almost one third of children were underweight in the same time
A Chance to Intervene
Fortunately, there is hope for
Cambodia. Although poverty is widespread, the severity of the situation can be
effectively lessened with continued governmental
intervention and the work of organizations like ChildFund. A key part of
our work in Cambodia is early childhood development, including expanding access
to immunizations and other basic health care, increasing primary school
enrollment and retention, and protecting children's rights.
we have helped thousands of Cambodian children, but to
continue our work, we need your help. One of the best ways you can invest in
the future of a Cambodian boy or girl is by becoming a child sponsor. For just $28 per month, you can ensure
that a child has access to the food, health care and education he or she needs
to break the cycle of poverty and lead a fulfilling life.