Survey Finds Cambodian Youth Losing Hope

One in five young Cambodians thought about committing su­icide in the past 12 months, most­­ly due to poverty or problems with parents or caregivers, ac­cord­ing to an end of year Edu­ca­tion Min­is­try report released Fri­day.

Twenty percent of young Cam­bodians felt worried, hopeless and re­luctant to work, leaving them in­ca­pacitated for more than a week in the past year, according to the re­­port, Cambodia Na­tional Youth Risk Behavior Sur­vey, which was supported by the UN Children’s Fund and UN Edu­ca­tion­al, Sci­entific and Cultural Or­ga­niz­ation.

The report found that 27 percent of girls and 11 percent of boys have thought about suicide.

A quarter of the 9,388 respondents in 24 provinces said do­mes­tic violence had occurred in their families in the previous 30 days.

Eight percent surveyed said they had carried a knife, stick, club or other weapon in the previous 30 days. Two-and one-half percent had been threatened with a wea­pon over the last year.

“Fighting is a big problem, especially among young people out of school,” the report said.

A third of respondents said their families had a shortage of money for rice in the previous year, and 85 percent of such families survived on two meals a day, the report found. Only 16 percent of families had running water and 50 percent had no toilet.

Of 148 sexually active young people interviewed for the survey, 23 said they had forced someone else to have sex. A third of sexually active youths never wear condoms and 24 percent are not aware of sexually-trans­mitted infections, the report found.

In a country where more than half the population is under 20, “young people represent not only the future of our country but also its present reality,” Im Sethy, Education Ministry secretary of state wrote in the report. “These results should help us better understand the reality of being a young person in Cam­bodia today.”

Not all the news was bad, however. One in three respondents said they exercised.

Chea Vannath of the Center for Social Development attributed the  social problems and de­­pression  to poverty, unemployment, drugs and low standards of living.

“Their parents are busy finding money to support their families, and the parents themselves are like the children of a lost generation,” due to their suffering under the Khmer Rouge, she said.


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