Facilities for the disabled in Cambodia are “horrendous,” Unicef’s country representative told reporters Friday on the sidelines of a regional conference in Phnom Penh on the challenges facing children with disabilities in Southeast Asia.
Unicef country representative Rana Flowers said that trying to organize this week’s conference, which was joined by some 50 government and NGO representatives from seven countries in the region, typified the problem.
“We realized as we organized this meeting over the last few days, as we looked for venues, places we could go, vehicles to transport, that it is horrendous in terms of the lack of facilities that cater to and are accessible for people with disabilities,” Ms. Flowers said.
And social services for the disabled aren’t any better, she added.
“We have a situation in Cambodia where we have one social worker for every 25,000 people,” Ms. Flowers said. “We can count on one hand the number of occupational therapists and the number of physiotherapists that are specifically trained to support people with disabilities; this is not a countrywide response.”
Yi Veasna, head of the National Center for Disabled People—a semi-autonomous organization under the Ministry of Social Affairs—explained that a major obstacle to helping children with disabilities in the country was identifying who and where they are.
Because the government and NGOs don’t have solid data about disabilities, it is impossible to know where to direct resources, he said. “[If] we want to invest, we have to understand how [many] children with disabilities exist.”
A 2013 Socio-Economic Survey in the country found that the disabled make up 4 percent of the population, but both the World Bank and the World Health Organization say the figure is probably closer to 10 or 20 percent, in line with other developing countries.
Ms. Flowers said Unicef’s research has found that about 10 percent of children in the country are disabled, but added, “The opportunities to access and measure disabilities in the country is very limited, so it’s likely to be much higher.”