Given its dark history, the situation in Cambodia is positive today. Economic growth has been rapid in the 2000s and the poverty rate has fallen. Cambodia is formally a democracy and the country’s legislation generally meets international standards. But the democratic culture is poorly developed. Corruption is widespread, violations of human rights are taking place and the judicial system’s lack of independence is a fundamental problem.
Cambodia’s current strategy to combat poverty, the National Plan for Strategic Development (NSDP), is valid as from 2013 and a new five-year strategy is currently being developed. The future plan will focus on continuing economic growth as well as employment, social service and more efficient administration. Agriculture is expected to remain the most important economic sector, but with increased productivity and linked to a broader industrialization.
Public healthcare still has significant weaknesses. One positive achievement though is the maternal mortality that has fallen drastically by 60 per cent in the last ten years, to 206 deaths per 100 000 children born alive (2012). This is an important change, which brings the country closer to reaching the Millenium Development Goal nr 5 of improved maternal health.
The positive figures are the results of a major campaign, comprising various initiatives. One of them has been to expand the number of health centres and educate more midwifes. Today, there is at least one midwife located at each and every one of the country’s approximately 1000 health centres, and poor women are offered free maternity care. The health centres are encouraged to provide good maternal health care and attract women to do prenatal check-ups, by means of paying the health centres a bonus of 15 USD for every child born there alive.
Newly built roads and bridges make it easier to access health centres and hospitals. National investments in new roads and bridges have also improved the access to health centres and hospitals. Most of the other Millennium Development Goals are expected to be achieved by 2015 as well. As for e.g., nutritional condition of children, and environmental sustainability, the situation is however still serious.
The low level of education in Cambodia is one of the biggest obstacles to development and long-term efforts are needed to achieve results. Primary school enrolment has increased in recent years, but the proportion of children who complete grade 7-9 has decreased.
History leads the way forward
The many years of war have left deep wounds among the country’s population. The extreme communist movement Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975 under the leadership of Pol Pot and over one million civilians were killed or died of starvation and hardship. The Khmers were driven away when the country was invaded by Vietnam in 1978 and a socialist state of the Vietnamese model was formed. The many years of war has left the country's infrastructure shattered. Various efforts are still required to combat the widespread poverty.
Sweden’s focus areas in Cambodia:
- Human rights
- Democratic development
- Climate change
Read more about Sida’s work in Cambodia