Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The salt of life: Ensuring table salt provides a vital mineral for good health

By Samoeurn Un and Arnaud Laillou

Salt producers in Kampot Province. Local salt producers are facing a challenging environment.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Arnaud Laillou

Iodine is an essential component of a proper daily diet, contributing to healthy thyroid function. Iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of intellectual and development disabilities. In many countries, iodine is efficiently delivered into food via table salt. But in Cambodia, as recently as 10 years ago only one in four households were using iodized salt, missing out on this vital mineral.

Intensive UNICEF work since then toward universal salt iodization, coupled with government initiatives, has brought about dramatic improvements, but recent information demonstrates the need to renew efforts on this important issue.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The scars of violence against children that can last a lifetime

By Sam Waller

Violence negatively affects the growth and long-term development of children. The child in this photograph is an actor.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2013/Luis Barreto

Seventeen-year-old Neary* experiences social anxiety, depression, panic attacks and night terrors. She constantly wants to stay close to an adult that she trusts. In the past, severe post-traumatic stress has caused her to have panic attacks so severe that she went unconscious. This affected her education, her physical and mental health, and her ability to socialize normally.

Neary’s mother died when she was a young child. This was the start of a childhood of unimaginable pain, the scars of which may never fade away.

After she lost her mother, Neary was looked after by her aunt, Kunthea*, and her extended family. They lived in a village on the outskirts of Battambang city, in the north west of Cambodia.

At the age of 9, Neary was viciously raped and beaten by an older male relative on several occasions. The violence was so severe that Neary almost died.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Developing Cambodia’s first ever national diploma in special needs teaching

By Lisa Kim

Bunthaong (left), 15, and Sreylin (right), 14, read in the Krousar Thmey school library in Phnom Penh   © UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Lisa Kim

It’s a Tuesday morning on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. It’s hot and sticky outside, but inside this small school library, Sreylin, 14, and Bunthaong, 15, are buried in their books. There’s a lot to learn - both students have recently completed primary school and are adjusting to ‘secondary school life’ in 7th grade.

Sreylin and Bunthaong both have visual impairments. Sreylin has low vision and is able to read with specially-made materials, while Bunthaong is blind and has learned to read braille. They both have access to inclusive education and attend a Krousar Thmey school. Inclusive education seeks to cater to the learning needs of all, with a specific focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion including children with disabilities.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thousands gather for the ‘Day of Prayer and Action for Children’ in Cambodia

By Iman Morooka

Representatives from the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim faiths all attended the Day of Prayer and Action for Children
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Fani Llaurado

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, 15 December 2015 – Over 4,400 people gathered together yesterday in celebration of the Day of Prayer and Action for Children. The participants included religious leaders from the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim faiths, government officials, NGO members, as well as children and youth.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Samdech Hun Sen, opened the meeting which was organized by the Ministry of Cult and Religion, in collaboration with UNICEF, World Vision, Muslim Aid, Danmission and ChildFund. In his remarks, the Prime Minister expressed his support for the celebration of the Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Cambodia, encouraging all religious leaders across the nation to commemorate the occasion every year.

The Day of Prayer and Action for Children is an important event around the world, which aims to draw the attention of faith-based leaders to the plight of children who are at risk of harm.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Climate change: What the COP 21 in Paris means for children in Cambodia

By Jorge Alvarez-Sala

A woman is forced to fetch water from a pond in Siem Reap province, as a result of the
2015 drought

© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Jorge Alvarez-Sala

Today, a young Cambodian woman’s life changed forever: ‘Davy’ gave birth to her first child at a rural health care facility in the remote province of Ratanakiri.

Simultaneously, thousands of miles away in Paris, an event with potential to change the lives of billions took place: representatives of over 190 countries, including 150 heads of state and government, opened the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21).

As far apart and as different in nature as these events may seem, they are intrinsically connected. While Davy does her best to care for and protect her precious child, the discussions and decisions made in Paris will profoundly affect her newborn’s future, along with the rest of us sharing this planet Earth.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Disabling karma: Reflections on Buddhism, disability and charitable drive-bys

By Megan Smith

Megan Smith is a volunteer working with UNICEF's Local Governance for Child Rights program
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Thinavuth Ek

Waiting outside the UNICEF office in Phnom Penh for my tuk tuk, an older woman sidles up to me and pushes 1,000 riel (around 25 cents) into my hand. This is what I have begun to colloquially call a charity drive-by. The first few times I chased after the predominantly elderly women to say, “thank you but please take the money back.” But, after it happened several times and experiencing the Cambodian elderly as absurdly quick, I accepted their charity with discomfort.

I will be honest, this is not the first time I’ve received money on the street. In the dark days of finishing my thesis at university, when I was unintentionally trying out dreadlocks and wore a uniform of oversized t-shirts and sweatpants, a man shoved money into my much-needed espresso outside of a Starbucks as I waited for a friend. Yet, within the Cambodian context, I expected my foreignness to exempt me from being seen as requiring charity.

The element however that seemingly erases my foreignness, my race, and all assumptions of economic affluence, is that I use a wheelchair.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Youth role models in Cambodia inspire children with disabilities to say “I can!”

By Sam Waller

Thuo, 29, leading a session at the “I Can!” workshop in Phnom Penh
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Sam Waller

Twenty-nine year old Thuo knows what it’s like to feel nervous and shy as a result of disability. Just a few years ago she spent most of her days at home, lacking in confidence because she has a disability caused by polio that affects one of her arms.

Two years ago, Thuo joined the inclusive arts course at Kampot-based organization Epic Arts and started to get her confidence back. She studied modules including drama, creative movement, music and visual arts, plus lessons in Khmer and English literacy. Along the way she also gained skills in management, team leadership and problem solving.