Children from poor families in Cambodia are highly vulnerable, often facing daily threats to their health, education, safety and overall development. Every day in Cambodia, children are exposed to abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect. These issues are often exacerbated by gender inequity, marginalization of urban and rural poor, and negative attitudes and discrimination towards ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
Cambodia’s child protection services remain weak, underfunded and under-staffed. NGOs fill some gaps, providing much-needed services and follow-up support for children, but their coverage is typically limited and coordination and oversight by the Government is inadequate to the need. Gaps in Cambodia’s social safety nets and welfare services often lead parents to resort to negative coping strategies, such as unsafe migration, abandonment and placement of children in residential care.
Lack of family and social support lead many children and young people to live on the streets and has resulted in increasing levels of adolescent risk behaviours including drug abuse, gang violence and involvement in criminal activities.
The justice system in Cambodia is still emerging and illequipped to respond to the needs of children who come into contact with the law whether as victims, witnesses or offenders. Inadequate judicial and law-enforcement contribute to the problem of violence, exploitation and abuse of both boys and girls in Cambodia.
Despite the nation’s success in controlling the HIV epidemic, HIV has tightened its grip on the nation’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations, which include more women, children and young people. A potential ‘second wave’ of new infections among key populations, such as people who use drugs, men who have sex with men and entertainment workers, threatens to undermine the nation’s progress in controlling HIV and AIDS. Young people under the age of 24 within these groups are among those most at risk. To achieve more coherent results for children, young people and their families, UNICEF has integrated its HIV prevention, care and support efforts into its child protection programme.
Every child has the right to be protected from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. UNICEF supports the government to strengthen child protection systems to protect vulnerable girls, boys, women and families, including children with disabilities and those affected by HIV and AIDS, and to address social norms to enhance the protective role of families and communities.