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Cambodia/Health Care in Cambodia

Health Care in Cambodia

Because Cambodia's population density is quite variable - some provinces are isolated and mountainous (Ratanakiri), and some are populated and fertile (Battambang) - the country's health care needs and services vary greatly. Cambodia's population is approximately 8 million, with about 800,000 people living in the capital, Phnom Penh.

In 1979, the Vietnamese-backed Heng Samrin government, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), was faced with a disastrous situation. But reconstruction began, and now health is one of the government's five priorities.

Over the last 20 years, landmines have been planted in many regions of Cambodia, as they are still today, leaving a trail of injuries, deaths, and mine-infested lands. A 1989 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Kampuchea Needs Assessment Study recommends that measures be taken to educate local populations on how to locate areas affected by landmines and to develop measures to deal with them.

In 1979 and the early 1980s, Cambodia's health system depended on the many Vietnamese experts present in the country; the system is based on the Vietnamese model, with vestiges of the old French system. Most major hospitals in Phnom Penh, and some hospitals in the provinces, are assisted by medical teams, from both Western and Eastern bloc countries. Although there are attempts to coordinate services among the Red Cross teams, the NGOs, and UN agencies, there are some communication difficulties. Attempts have been made to standardize drug importation from Western countries.

Health care is in theory free for all citizens, but in fact there are many charges for services, and when supplies are unavailable in hospitals the patient must purchase them on the open market. Each province has a separate budget, and provinces receive different amounts of humanitarian aid.


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