Workshop Seeks Ways to Aid Disabled Children

The tragic combination of millions of land mines and poor health care means Cambodia has a high number of disabled children, perhaps the high­est in the world, an official said.

That was the starting point Mon­day at a two-day workshop that hopes to come up with a plan to help those children, especially those who are orphans or who have been abandoned.

“Cambodia is acknowledged as having the highest rate of disabled people in the world,” said Ouk Sis­o­vann, executive director of the Disabilities Action Council.

Ith Sam Heng, Minister of So­cial Affairs, cited a 1997 study that put the disability rate at 2 percent of the population, or about 240,000 people out of 12 million.

Since 40 percent of the population is under 18 years of age, children make up a very high percentage of the country’s disabled population, he said.

Cambodian children in general face problems, including poor education—at least one in four has little or no schooling—to poor nutrition, with one in two suffering from malnutrition, he said. Dis­abled children suffer even more.

“Children with disabilities and their families generally face… ­added barriers of discrimination,” Ith Sam Heng said.

Add widespread poverty to that mix and “many families feel un­able to cope and often neglect, aban­don or relinquish their disabled children,” he said.

The workshop, held at the Nat­ional Institute for Public Health, is jointly sponsored by the ministry and DAC. About 50 officials and social service workers were invited to develop plans to provide housing, medical care and other services to disabled children.

Workshop participants planned to discuss ideas for group housing, foster care, training and education  and disability prevention.

, and the need for research and reliable funding for programs.

Organizers hope the participants will offer suggestions to the government on long-term strategies for helping disabled children and their families.


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