ChildFund has worked in some of the world's poorest countries for more than 70 years, yet we're relative newcomers to Cambodia. We came to Cambodia in 2007, and in the short time we have been in operation here we have worked to improve conditions for many families. However, with almost a third of the population living in poverty, the road ahead of us is long, and we need your help.
One of the greatest challenges facing Cambodian children, particularly those living in rural areas, is access to school. According to the World Bank, Cambodia's educational problems began in the 1970s, when the ruling party ordered the destruction of school books, buildings and other vital resources. In the years that followed the toppling of the Khmer Rouge, much progress was made to expand access to education, particularly for young children, but these initiatives were subject to extremely limited financial resources, and rural communities often went without.
Great strides were made during the 1990s, when primary school enrollment increased to an all-time high of almost 95 percent, but families in rural areas and poor children still face an uphill struggle. A little more than half of children in the poorest 20 percent of Cambodia's population attend school, compared to almost 80 percent of children in the top-earning 20 percent. In addition, children living in rural areas are much more likely to live farther away from schools, making it even more challenging for them to receive an education.
To address this problem, ChildFund launched a series of initiatives beginning in 2007 that have accomplished promising results. One campaign was introduced to boost primary school enrollment, and more than 5,000 parents and 38 schools participated. In addition, more than 1,000 children involved with ChildFund's Child Clubs took part in children's rights training, and 63 kindergarten teachers received vital nutritional and school management training.
"I have gained a lot of knowledge and skills from participating in the ChildFund project, especially exchange visits," says Nhoem Rachna, a preschool teacher in the Svay Thum community. "I am also thinking of taking a more advanced course in early childhood education so that I could train other preschool teachers in the countryside."
Another major obstacle families in Cambodia's poorest regions face is sanitation. Inadequate water supplies can lead to disease, and many families lacked knowledge of good hygienic practices. To address this problem, we established Quality and Assurance Committees in several communities across Cambodia to provide training and support to local families and reduce the spread of disease through improved sanitation.
Since we arrived, more than 1,080 domestic latrines have been built, as well as 80 household wells to provide families with clean water. In addition to the new construction projects, 20 household wells have been refurbished, after water sources were tested for E. coli bacteria and arsenic. In all, more than 500 families took part in these projects, and 3,000 community members participated in our clean water, health and hygiene campaigns
Conditions in Cambodia are improving every day thanks to the work of ChildFund, our regional partners and global organizations like the United Nations, but there is still a lot to do. Without continued investment, we risk losing the valuable momentum we have established in the past six years, and we need your help to improve the lives of children in need across Cambodia.
To invest in a child's life, please consider sponsoring a child. For about a $1 a day, your sponsored child will receive food, health care and other essentials they need to not only emerge from poverty but thrive.