Having recently emerged from thirty years of conflict, Cambodia is considered to be one of the poorest countries in the world. The conflict has destroyed the economy and the healthcare systems and left the country with large numbers of landmines. The number of the disabled population in the country is estimated at 40,000 landmine amputees and a further 50,000 disabled by polio and other diseases.
According to reports by the WHO, ILO and UNESCO, disabled people are the poorest of the poor and are the most marginalized population in Cambodia . The situation is made worse because the majority of disabled people are under 30 years old, at an age where they should be productive and independent. Since the largest number of landmines buried in countryside, the majority of the disabled people live in the rural areas. They are further disadvantaged by discrimination, poverty and lack of job opportunities.
The Cambodia Trust was founded in 1989, initially focusing on providing artificial limbs for Landmine victims in Cambodia. The project began in response to an emergency, opening rehabilitation clinics in the capital city, Phnom Penh, and subsequently expanded its activities to reach other cities. Then these clinics have evolved into full rehabilitation centres offering braces, wheelchairs, physiotherapy, outreach and community work with disabled people.
The project’s objective is to enable people with disability to take part in the normal life of the community and to restore mobility, dignity and self-sufficiency, so that disabled people, who are currently excluded from Cambodian society, can participate as equal members of the community. It concentrates mainly on women and adults to get access to skill acquisition and training for work, and on children to be able to attend school. The project is currently expanding this work by finding partner NGOs who would like to improve the inclusion of disabled people in their poverty reduction schemes. The project is developing a training course for these NGOs to help raise awareness of disabled people’s issues and rights.
The project has greatly influenced the life of the disabled people and erased the society’s negative opinion towards the disabled people, particularly they became self-reliant and active participants in social activities.