Nearly 4 of 10 Live in Poverty, Profile Shows

The most thorough profile on poverty in Cambodia ever completed shows 36 percent of citizens live in poverty, and more than half of those are not getting enough food to eat.

The Poverty Profile of Cam­bodia—1997, soon to be released by the Planning Ministry, shows the number of Cambo­dians be­low the poverty line dropping from 39 percent in a similar 1993-1994 study to 36 percent last year. The numbers, however, differ when broken down by region.

While Phnom Penh’s poverty rate remains the same at 11 percent, other urban areas have dropped from 37 to 30 percent and rural areas from 43 to 40 percent, according to the study.

The profile surveyed 6,010 households randomly selected from villages and urban communes in 20 provinces, and was carried out from the end of May to the end of June.

The study, sponsored by the UN Development Program, the Swedish International Develop­ment Cooperation Agency and The World Bank, “is being used as a information base for better poverty analysis and policy in Cambodia,” the Ministry of Plan­ning said in a statement preceding the report.

R Natarajan of the World Bank on Friday said the 1997 profile is much more thorough than the 1993-94 Cambodia Socio-Econ­omic Survey and should be the baseline from which poverty is measured in the future.

“We hope that the government will have the capacity to carry out the [profiles] on an annual basis,” he said.

Such profiles are the norm in other developing countries and are indispensible for creating effective poverty alleviation policies, Natarajan said. For example, the profile show­ed 75 percent of the poor living in households where the head is self-em­ploy­ed and engaged in agriculture.

“Poverty alleviation interventions need therefore to be targeted mainly to the rural population and should focus on agriculture,” the report stated.

The report also suggests two of every 10 Cambodians are not getting enough food to survive.

Among the poor, the survey looked at two levels of poverty. The “food poverty line” based its indicator on a 2,100 calorie per day diet. The survey said Phnom Penh residents need 1,378 riel per day to buy enough food to meet this calorie level, other urban residents needed 1,102 riel and rural residents 940 riel.

Twenty percent of Cambodians are below that line, down 2 percent from the previous survey.

The “poverty line,” where nearly 36 percent of Cambodians are, allows for a certain amount of additional money for transportation, goods and clothes.

The report implied the declining number of children per household in all regions and social strata, from 5.6 persons to 4.9, may be a reason for the de­creases in poverty. The number of children per family, ages 0 to 14, dropped from 3.4 to 2.8 percent among the nation’s poorest.

Karen Hill, coordinator for the Save the Children Alliance, said future government programs should target the poorest of the poor, especially the children.

“Ignoring the poor cuts off a great pool of talent that can contribute to the economic development of the country,” she said.

Other notable findings include a dramatic increase in the overall number of households with piped- in water from 7 percent to 23 percent. For the poorest, this in­creased from 4 to 19 percent.

Ownership of radios among the poor increased from 23 to 28 percent and televisions from 3 to 8 percent. Bicycle ownership decreased slightly from 57 to 55 percent while motorized transportation increased from 6 to 8 percent.


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