Children Face Grim Outlook, Unicef Reports

The outlook for many Cambo­dian children remains grim. Sex trafficking persists, HIV infection rates continue to climb and 45 percent of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition.

Solutions to these tough problems and others were the focus of the 6th Ministerial Consultation on Children in Bali, Indonesia, that wrapped up last week.

The UN Children’s Fund participated in the conference and briefed the 25 participating na­tions on problems facing children in countries in East Asia and the Pacific Region. The two-day conference resulted in the adoption of a regional consensus.

A report released by Unicef during the conference said that “countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and increasingly Cam­bo­dia are gaining a worldwide reputation for sex tourism, often involving children,” according to the statement.

Unicef’s report pointed out that Cambodia ranks eighth in the world for child malnutrition.

It also estimated that 164,000 people are living with HIV or AIDS and that 7,300 people will be infected within the year. Of those, 2,600 will be children. In the entire East Asian region, “11 million children are expected to be AIDS orphans by 2010,” Unicef said.

The 250 delegates left the conference with five major development priorities: Combating sex trafficking, curtailing HIV/AIDS, improving nutrition, reducing neo-natal mortality and improving the quality of education.

Fresh from the regional conference, Cambodian officials vowed Thursday to bolster efforts in the country to improve conditions for the country’s children.

“Fighting the trafficking of children is a regional problem that we all need to help. This issue in society is not so easy to combat,” said Chan Haran Vaddey, general secretary of Cambodian National Council for Children. “We will try to work better and work together with Unicef,” she said.

Minister of Social Affairs Ith Samheng said Cambodia will continue to fight against the sex trade through its anti-trafficking office in the Ministry of Interior.

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