Though in recent years, Cambodia’s public healthcare system has made impressive strides and poverty continues to fall, children still die from preventable causes.
Access to quality healthcare within Cambodia is not yet universal. There is a lack of access to specialty, critical and intensive care services throughout the country – particularly for those in the poorest and most remote villages.
Many of these communities feature a lack of access to sufficient medical care and low levels of health literacy. Often, children treated at AHC’s hospital present with preventable illnesses or issues that have not been addressed because their caretakers are missing critical information.
While now classified as a low to lower middle income country, 35% of Cambodians continue to live in poverty (UNDP, 2018) and most (80%) live in rural areas, without access to quality healthcare (World Bank, 2013).
Poverty is a root cause of a majority of the most commonly seen diagnoses at AHC. This leads to a lack of clean drinking water, malnutrition and low prevalence of good sanitation and hygiene practices all of which further contribute to illness.
Many of the 135,000 treatments provided each year are for preventable illnesses. Families are not seeking treatment early enough and children are dying due to delayed care and diagnosis, as well as financial barriers. Often, children are already struggling with acute and severe malnutrition, and the outcomes can be fatal.
During the Khmer Rouge regime from 1974-1979, an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians were killed, and the educated classes were target. As a result, there were less than 50 medical doctors in Cambodia in 1979, most of whom fled as soon as possible. The healthcare system collapsed; healthcare facilities were decimated and self-sufficiency (including healthcare) became a way of life.
At AHC’s founding in 1998, there was no children’s hospital in Siem Reap. Angkor Hospital for Children was the first to provide specialised paediatric care services and facilities with trained staff and suitable equipment.
For two decades, AHC has played an integral role in the system’s recovery by providing healthcare education to students, graduates, medical staff (AHC and government employees) and conducting outreach programmes in the community.