According to a joint UN and Asian Development Bank report, Cambodia ranks among the Asian nations that have made significant headway toward development but still have not reached the UN’s Millennium Development Goals—eight targets to improve living standards by 2015.
The report, entitled “Millennium Development Goals: Progress in Asia and the Pacific 2007,” covers a wide range of areas, from health and education to the environment and gender parity.
According to the report released Monday, Cambodia has made significant progress in some areas since 1990, notably children’s education and curbing HIV-AIDS, but showed sluggish performance and even regression in others such as children’s health and the environment.
Arjun Goswami, country director for the Asian Development Bank, said the numbers indicate that Cambodia is following regional trends. “When we look at the rates overall, the problem is not only with Cambodia,” he said.
Indeed, not one nation in the region hit the mark in all eight categories. Vietnam showed regression in HIV prevalence but was “on track” in rural sanitation. Thailand, while faring well in most categories, was flagging in its efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions—which have been linked to global warming.
According to the report, Cambodia has seen an increase in underweight children under the age of 5, from 39.8 percent in 1994 to 45.2 percent in 2000. The mortality rate of children under 5 also rose, with the number of deaths going from 115 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 143 in 2005.
Veng Thaim, director of the Phnom Penh municipal health department, said that the two issues are linked.
He added that the Health Ministry’s National Institute of Public Health has implemented numerous programs to improve children’s health. These include encouraging the use of iodized salt, distributing vitamins and deworming pills, free vaccination drives and breastfeeding campaigns.
The report also states that deforestation has set Cambodia back in a key environmental goal: forest cover, which has dropped from 73.3 percent of the country in 1990 to 59.2 percent in 2005.
Environment Secretary of State Yin Kim Sean declined to go into detail regarding the decrease in forest cover, saying only: “We are taking measures to stop it dropping more.”
Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokhun said Tuesday he was too busy to speak with a reporter.
On the positive side, the percentage of Cambodian children enrolled in primary school in 2005 was up 42 percent compared to 1991, and the rate of primary school completion more than doubled from 1999 to 2005, the report says. The report also states that Cambodia had already reached development goals set for combating the spread of both HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis.
Goswami expressed optimism that the government was recognizing many of country’s problem areas.
One of the issues which remains a concern, he said, is water and sanitation. But, Goswami said, the government is taking steps in the right direction.
“When you start with the recognition of the problem…that’s a good start,” he said.