In many parts of rural Cambodia, the lush landscape is not being used to its full potential. Although the country is rich in natural resources, some land is unsuitable for agricultural development and other uses because of an invisible, yet lethal, threat: landmines. Some regions of Cambodia are pockmarked with landmines that date back to the 1970s but can still maim and kill. Cambodia today has one of the world's highest per capita rates of amputations from landmine injuries.
Mine-laying became a common military practice in Cambodia in the late 1970s, when Vietnam invaded its neighbor, eventually removing Cambodia's totalitarian ruling party, the Khmer Rouge. The Cambodian military fought the invasion by laying landmines, which have led to 64,000 casualties since 1979, as well as 25,000 people living with amputations.
In addition to the serious physical danger posed by concealed landmines, their prevalence across many parts of northwest Cambodia has resulted in diminished opportunities for growth for the Cambodian economy. In some communities near the Thai border, secondary and tertiary roads cannot be built because of the presence of landmines, and irrigation projects and agricultural initiatives also are unable to proceed. This, in turn, means that many families who are dependent on agriculture for survival and a means of income face hardships.
Many of the landmines across Cambodia were laid by child soldiers like Aki Ra. Forced to join the military in the mid-1970s when he was just 5 years old, Ra spent years placing landmines in Cambodia. Today, he heads the Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Facility (CLMRF), a nonprofit organization that educates people about the history of landmines in Cambodia and supports survivors of landmine injuries and their families. The CLMRF also operates a number of landmine removal programs across the country.
Even families that are not directly affected by landmines in rural areas of Cambodia may face challenges related to their presence. Many people cannot support themselves and their children due to limited agricultural development, and in some communities, access to clean drinking water is impossible because of a lack of irrigation. One of the best ways you can help children in need across Cambodia is through child sponsorship. Your generosity and support can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child, so please consider sponsoring a child today.