Cambodia has lived through decades of civil conflict, the trauma of the Khmer Rouge regime and economic stagnation as a result. About a third of the population was killed and after the first free elections in 1993, the deeply traumatized country had to restart. In recent decades, Cambodia has made remarkable progress in economic growth coupled with human development. Economic success has enabled the country to reduce significantly national poverty rates, which led and supported Cambodia to achieving important targets for infant mortality, under-5 mortality, maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS.
However, despite these achievements, many Cambodians remain food-deficit with 18.6 percent of the population living under the national poverty line and with approximately 80 percent of the population living in rural areas where they rely on agriculture, fisheries and forestry for their livelihoods. One quarter of the population is considered food-deprived. Undernutrition rates are high and have changed little in the past 10 years, with 32 percent of children under 5 stunted and almost 15 percent of women of reproductive age underweight.
Johanniter International Assistance started its commitment in the sector of basic health in February 2011. Today, this approach is successfully continuing with the treatment of ear diseases in rural health centers. In recent years, the focus has shifted to adapt a more holistic approach to development which considers the social determinants of health and consequently poverty. This is done by taking on a multi sector approach to development, where climate change adaptation, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), nutrition and livelihoods are all addressed, linked and worked with. "We are tackling intensively the causes of the poverty spiral, which unfortunately often begins with a lack of hygiene and subsequent illness," explains Project-Coordinator Claudia Zehl. Our programs that use this holistic approach, which address the multiple sectors, recognizing the synergy and connectedness of them, have the ability and mission to empower marginalized communities for long lasting change.