AHC started with a single photograph.
More than 20 years ago, acclaimed Japanese photographer Kenro Izu visited Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor. Then, the poverty rate in Cambodia hovered at 50%, and half of all child deaths were associated with malnutrition. Izu was deeply moved by the ill children he encountered during his photography trips, and the limited basic healthcare that was then offered. He committed himself to building a paediatric hospital in Siem Reap in order to better provide quality healthcare.
Izu established a non-profit organisation and founded Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC). His vision for the hospital was to become a ‘world-class hospital, for Cambodians run by Cambodians.’ When AHC’s gates officially opened in 1999, the hospital was made up of just three Cambodian doctors and ten nurses, numerous medical volunteers from around the world – and one hospital bed.
‘From the beginning, we knew that our task was not an easy one. Each year brought with it new challenges.’
– AHC Founder Kenro Izu on the organisation’s early years.
Growth Leads to Independence
Along with challenges – from dengue epidemics to a lack of resources – AHC’s first years of operation were also marked by extraordinary growth.
From the beginning, AHC functioned as a teaching hospital, training medical personnel with an emphasis on empowerment and self-sufficiency. While the hospital began with just an outpatient department, it rapidly expanded its capacity and range of services to meet the needs of the hundreds of children that would arrive daily.
From 2000 to 2005, AHC added an emergency room, surgical unit, dental clinic, eye clinic, and other units, becoming one of the few paediatric hospitals in the country offering such specialty services. Outside of the hospital, AHC established community outreach programmes to address preventative healthcare issues at the root and increase health literacy. By 2007, the hospital had educated almost 1,500 Cambodian doctors, nurses and health workers in paediatrics, and treated almost one-half million children.
Kenro Izu’s founding vision was realised in 2013, when AHC officially became a locally-run, independent organisation, firmly rooted in Siem Reap and led by a skilled Cambodian team. Following the transition, the hospital further expanded, positioning itself at the forefront of paediatric healthcare in Cambodia by opening the country’s first neonatal intensive care unit, treating its first patients with cancer, and attaining other major achievements impactful nationally.
‘For 20 years, we have transformed paediatric healthcare in Cambodia – first, by recognising paediatrics as a specialty in itself.’
– Dr Claudia Turner, CEO, on AHC’s prioritisation of specialty care.
Focusing on the Future
Over the years, AHC continued to evolve, from a hospital to a healthcare organisation employing over 500 Cambodian staff, training countless others, and contributing to healthcare procedure, policy and research – nationally and internationally.
Today, the organisation is reframing and refocusing its priorities based on the context of the country’s public healthcare system amidst priorities in global child health.
In Cambodia, this translates to a need for provision of specialty services often found nowhere else, like oncology, cardiology, neurology and other secondary and tertiary services. By elevating such specialties, AHC is able to fill gaps and accelerate progress within the country’s healthcare system, without undermining or duplicating services.
Education is as important as ever, as AHC continues to train the country’s next generation of healthcare leaders and expand upon its capacity building activities. By replicating AHC’s impactful programmes and increasing health literacy in the community, health outcomes can be improved across the country. Throughout, AHC will continue to operate with the highest standards in governance and transparency.