Helping Cambodias children

Stung Treng Travel Blog

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As beautifull as Cambodia represents itself, as much as the children wave, as much as the light glitters in the Mekong and as gentle as everybody is all these happy encounters are flashes, beautiful fractions of a hard life and they do not represent the entire reality.   

Reality is poverty: About 36% of Cambodia's children are underweight. Reality is malnutriton making the children sucseptible to illness. Reality is insufficiant access to clean water and poor sanitation facilities causing diarrheal illness. Reality is the dusty roads; runny noses, coughing children. Pnemonia is a killer here and less than half of the children with suspected pnemonia are taken to health care providers. Reality is poor housing causing injuries; families often have only one room foor sleeping cooking, playing and so on. Many children get burned or fall down. The reality here is aids; 4.400 children here live with aids. And finally the 600.000 orphans living in childrens homes or on the streets. The list is long and the consequences can be summarised in numbers:

1 in 15 children die before their 5th birthday in Cambodia. In the developed world 1 in 150 children die before their 5th birthday. 

The problem is rooted deep within the Cambodian  history, the social situation, its poitical terror and the extreme poverty. The educated elite was killed and society was broken down systematically. The solution can only be in the empowerment of the Cambodian people, in rebuilding infra structures and in education.

In Siem Reap, In the back streets next to the river a series of low white buildings stand in a big compound. In the courtyard dozens of people sit, even spilling out onto the road outside. All concerned adults with sick children. This is the Angkor Hospital for children. A place that is rebuilding Cambodia from within.

Kendro Izu, a Japanese photographer that visited Cambodia between 1993 and 1997 to photograph Angkor Wat was touched by the plight of the Cambodian children and founded 'friends without a border'. With the funding and awareness raised, the Angkor Hospital for children was built and opened in 1999.

The goals of the hospital are:

"provide high quality medical care for children in a warm, supportive environment.

Support continuing education of health care professionals throughout Cambodia so that they will become the clinicians of the future.

Improve health, nutrition and hygiene of local communities through outreach programs and homecare.

Stimulate research to develop sound health care practices appropriate for local conditions." (Friends without a border, 2008 annual report, p.2)  

The Hospital sees 10.000 children each month in its out patient department. Here mild dehydration and upper respiratory illnesses are treated. On site there is a 26 bed inpatient department, a dental clinic and an eye clinic, an intensive care unit, digital imaging, a laboratory unit and surgical services, even providing complex heart surgeries. In all departments focus is on education and family focused care and the hospital has a garden and a kitchen were families are educated on healthy, nurtitious growing and cooking option. Furthermore food and sanitary items are provided for one adult to accompany the child during the stay and the hospital has a low acuity unit where children that live far away can recieve good aftercare. 

In accordance with the second goal of furthering education, the hospital is now recognised as an international  teaching hospital, hosting medical students from Laos, the UK the U.S., Canada and Malaysia, and 98% of the medical and surgical staff are cambodian.  

In accordance with the third goal the facilities of the hospital stretch far beyond the walls of the compound: A HIV/Homecare team makes over 200 home visits per month providing education and treatment, a mobile lake clinic is sent to the poor communities on the tonle sap lake once per month to provide education and treatments and the 'capacity building and health education program' (CBHEP) started in 2001, aims at 'strenghten the capacity and improve the quality of community health care services' and thereby reducing child morbidity and child mortality from preventable illnesses. The project consists of several phases were individual needs of a community are assesed, educated health care workers are sent there, relationships are built up and education starts and finally responsibility is transferred to the local health centers.

We have come across several of the governmental health services in the countryside and the importance of the CEHEP initiative is invaluable: Children were playing among rubbish in a yard that was used for cooking, feeding and toileting. Bottoms were washed over the cooking corner...Mothers arrived steadily with floppy children and it is horrible to know that they will not be able to get better care for their children. All we could do there and then is provide money for medication but the with CEHEP there is a chance of actually changing these places from within. 

So far always, Daren and I take the happy encounters from the countrys we travel through, we accept that people are sometimes struggling, that political systems are corrupt and without conscience. It as part of what we do. But it is still hard to see and its hard to know that the change we spare is not changing the situation. But in Cambodia the Angkor hospital for Children is not only providing high quality health care, it is rebuilding existing health care facilities, creating new initiatives, rebuilding confidence and training highly qualified professionals in a country that has had to start from scratch only 30 years ago.

In 2008 The Ankor Hospital for Children recieved 95% of it's income from grants and contributions and events. Most of this is through 'friends without a border', who founded the hospital originally.  The easiest and cheapest way for the Hospital to recieve money is via the friends organization and they have been kind enough to set up a donation page in Darens and my name for anyone who feels they can support the Hospital. The Friends without a border (FWAB)homepage can be found on

Here there is plenty of information about the organisation and the hospital. To get to our part click on the bottom left 'donate' icon. On the page that comes up click on the left side below 'how to help' on 'donate'.  Scroll down on the shopping chart and at the bottom 'darens and tati's roadtramz for children' will appear. Here you can choose to donate anything from 5 US dollars and up. (There is also a range of other donation options). HSBC bank charged me nothing to make a transfer and as long as the transfer is made from the Friends without a border pages in US dollar the FWAB organisation can keep the cost as low as 3% their end. But please check with your banks how much they will charge you before you transfer as the transfer is going to New York.

Thank you very much.


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Stung Treng
photo by: Deats