Violence against children cost Cambodia more than $160 million in 2013, according to a report released by the government on Wednesday.
“The Economic Burden of the Health Consequences of Violence Against Children in Cambodia”—authored by Chinese expert Xiangming Fang and funded by Unicef—builds on a 2013 study, in which more than 50 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds surveyed said they had experienced physical abuse.
“The economic burden of the selected health consequences of violence against children in Cambodia totalled US$168 million in 2013, accounting for 1.10 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” the report says.
“Productivity losses due to childhood violence in 2013 totalled US$83.3 million, accounting for 0.55 per cent of GDP,” it adds.
During an event to mark the report’s release at the Hotel Cambodiana in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi called the economic toll of child abuse “enormous.”
“The economic consequence in 2013 is $76.9 million for girls and $90.9 million for boys,” she said.
“We should have been able to use this money to develop other things for society.”
The monetary figures in the study were calculated using information from the 2013 “Cambodia’s Violence Against Children Survey,” which polled 2,560 individuals on their personal experiences with violence, as well as a mathematical model that estimates the minimum costs of violence against children in the country.
Unicef country representative Debora Comini noted that given the constraints of the new study, the $168 million total almost certainly underestimated the overall economic impact of violence against minors.
“For example, all the violence that is prevalent for children that don’t live in a family setting—children that live in the street or children that live in institutions—is not calculated here. So all that also needs to be added to the figures we have in this study.”
Sy Define, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs who chairs the government’s committee on violence against children, told reporters on the sidelines of the event that while “outreach” efforts were needed to address child abuse, funding would need to come from more than just the government.
“We know the government will not have enough money to work on children’s issues,” she added. “We need partner organizations, especially U.N. agencies, to contribute.”
Contacted on Wednesday by telephone, Sebastien Marot, executive director of the NGO Friends International, said that outreach based on providing information alone would not be enough to interrupt the cycle of violence against children.
“We have the very clear cases where, when fathers are unemployed, alcohol use and domestic violence increases—all of this is linked…to a much wider social problem—and we need to address the entire ecosystem to have real results,” he said.