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THE ORPHANS OF CAMBODIA

For decades, Cambodia has suffered from an overwhelming orphan problem driven by three factors: HIV/AIDS, land mines and child abandonment due to poverty.

Cambodia has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in Asia with 100 new cases every day. The mortality rate alone produces approximately 40,000 orphans every year in Cambodia. Most orphans’ parents die from HIV/AIDS and the children are left to fend for themselves. Only a fraction endure this sort of childhood with even a small degree of success. Sadly, most become victimized by pedophiles and turn to crime, drugs and prostitution just to survive. And the cycle continues.

There are still land mines scattered throughout the country from decades of war and political conflict. It’s estimated there are still between 1 to 2 million undetonated land mines in the countryside. These result in deaths and disabilities that effect 1 out of every 243 Cambodians. They are a destructive and dangerous force unto themselves.

In addition, the poverty levels in Cambodia make it difficult for parents to even feed their children. Many mothers are forced into prostitution by their circumstances, become pregnant and abandon their babies.

Due to these three major factors—among others—the number of Cambodian orphans is staggering. And on the rise. In fact, studies show (and experience dictates) that Cambodian children are better off in orphanages than in the community, yet few are available. UNICEF estimates there are 600,000 orphans in Cambodia with only 257 operating orphanages.