Facilities for Country’s Disabled ‘Horrendous,’ Unicef Rep Says

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.”

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