PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is increasing funding to support a rehabilitation and prosthetics project for people with disabilities in Cambodia.
USAID announced earlier this week that it had awarded about $900,000 to Veterans International Cambodia for a 19-month project.
Julie Chung, Charge d’Affairs at the US embassy, said the US government is committed to helping people with disabilities because they are the most vulnerable people in the world.
She added that disabled people often suffer from discrimination. “They are taken out of the workforce because of discrimination or the lack of educational, vocational rehabilitation, and training opportunities,” said Ms. Chung.
She said that there are more than 700,000 people in Cambodia with disabilities – about 5 percent of the population.
Gov’t Needs Help
Sem Sokha, secretary of state of the Ministry of Social Affairs, lauded the grant from USAID and said the government could not work alone to improve the situation of disabled people. “We need coordination by the government, NGOs and the families of disabled people,” he said. Healthcare and educational services for disabled people are sparse. In many cases families provide the only support.
“Disabled people cannot even get support for travelling fees to the center to get services,” Mr. Sokha said.
Keo Rithy, executive director of VIC, said it runs three rehabilitation centers.
International Funds Declining
Funds from international donors are falling, but economic growth in Cambodia is leading to increased funds from the government, as well as NGOs.
“There are challenges with the national budget because the process to allocate funds can be slow,” Mr. Rithy added.
His organization is also pushing for more disabled people to be included in the workforce.
Although laws have been passed mandating that government agencies and private companies hire disabled people, these laws have yet to be enforced, he said.
He called on the government and private companies to respect the law and hire more disabled staff.