The Cambodian SOS Children's Village Association was founded in 2000. The organisation first started working with children without parental care in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Due to the high levels of poverty and deprivation in the country, the organisation has continued to grow and now supports children, young people and families in six locations in Cambodia.
One of the most underdeveloped areas of Cambodia
Brothers and sisters in SOS Children's Village Kampot (Photo: SOS archives)
Kampot, with around 48,000 inhabitants, is located in the south of Cambodia about 30 km from the Vietnamese border. The province is mostly rural, with people living off agriculture, and fishing. Tourism is also a key source of income and employment.
Kampot is one of the most underdeveloped areas of Cambodia: an estimated 70 percent live in poverty. The physical and emotional development of children is negatively affected by the province's harsh social and economic conditions. The infant and child mortality rates are high. Most of these deaths could be avoided by vaccination or medical treatment, but these are not affordable or easily available. Already in pregnancy, the majority of women receive no ante-natal advice, and around half of all children are delivered without the help of a trained professional.
Families do not always have enough food to stay healthy. A significant number of children are malnourished and are subsequently underweight and small for their age. This makes them more likely to become ill. One of the main causes of death is diarrhoea - only 38 per cent have access to safe drinking water and around 16 per cent to appropriate sanitation facilities.
Child labour is an everyday reality for about 45 per cent of children between the ages of five and fourteen in the province. These children are at risk of exploitation and abuse, and some end up as victims of human trafficking. The majority of these children don't go to school, others receive some schooling but not enough to help them break the cycle of poverty.
Girls are disadvantaged in this rural society. Girls are more likely to be underweight and stunted. They also drop out of school more often than boys, especially at secondary level. Many are forced to marry at an early age. Children who live in a female-headed household are particularly vulnerable as women tend to have less access to land and, due to limited education, fewer means of making a living.
Families in need of support
Years of conflict has resulted in stressful social and economic conditions in Cambodia, which have a huge impact on family life. Many families break down, leaving countless children without parental care. Many others are at risk of losing parental care unless families are given the support they need to stay together. SOS Children's Villages supports the community in different ways, depending on the needs of the individual families and children.
What we do in Kampot
Children from the SOS Kindergarten playing together (Photo: SOS archives)
Strengthen families: The SOS Family Strengthening Programme works in conjunction with local agencies, and aims to support families at risk of abandoning their children and to help them to stay together. We ensure that children have access to food and clothing as well as to essential services, such as education and health care. We train families so that they can find a way to make a living.
Care in SOS families: Our main priority is to keep families together, but if this is not possible, then children can move into one of the ten SOS families, where they grow up with their brothers and sisters and a cared for by an SOS mother.
Education: Due to the low level of educational achievement in the area, SOS Children's Villages runs a kindergarten. Vulnerable children from the neighbourhood receive day care and pre-school education here. Children in our care will spend their days alongside these children, making friends and integrating into the local community.