USAID In Cambodia
Although Cambodia experienced steady growth between 1999 and the recent global economic downturn, the economy is fragile and undiversified. The government is hampered by weak institutions, lack of transparency, and an entrenched system of patronage. Parliamentary elections in the summer of 2008 were freer than any previously held in Cambodia, but power remains concentrated in the executive branch, and opposition parties are disorganized, divided, and subject to manipulation by the ruling party. Each year, 250,000 youth enter the workforce, but the economy does not create enough new jobs to employ them all. The health care and education systems are underfunded. Infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), avian influenza, and dengue fever are serious concerns. USAID’s objectives in Cambodia are to combat corruption; strengthen key political rights and civil liberties; improve private-sector competitiveness and the business-enabling environment to attract investment and create jobs; strengthen national health systems and improve the health of Cambodians; and improve basic education.
USAID engages with civil society organizations, as well as government and business reformers, to combat corruption, improve the legal system, strengthen key political and civil liberties, and improve human rights. By informing and fueling the public debate about transparency and accountability, USAID is laying the groundwork for reform and building the political will for change. USAID’s programs are encouraging youth and women to get involved in the democratic process. Over 1 million citizens, or 14% of eligible voters, have signed a petition calling for an anti-corruption law that meets international standards. USAID’s efforts to educate local governments on the political norms of partnership, participation, transparency, and accountability have reached 22% of all communes in Cambodia. Meanwhile, USAID-funded programs in 2008 trained 81% of the judges and legal professionals in Cambodia to improve independence, accountability, public awareness, and advocacy.
USAID's economic programs have improved the investment environment and enhanced the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized enterprises, which employ most of the population. USAID has helped over 3,000 family businesses increase their sales by 100-340%. Complementary efforts include workforce development, public-private dialogue, and the generation of private sector demand for policy, legal, and regulatory reforms. In late 2008, USAID began expanding the program to new provinces and industries, including tourism and high-value fruits and vegetables.
USAID is working to combat a variety of health problems in Cambodia. The country’s maternal mortality rate is among the highest in Southeast Asia, and the number of newborn deaths is also extremely high. USAID is improving maternal and child health by developing national policies and strengthening national systems, improving clinical skills, expanding community outreach, providing community education, and improving access to quality services. Although the HIV prevalence rate is high in specific populations, USAID’s programs have helped reduce overall HIV prevalence in Cambodia from 2% in 1998 to less than 1% in 2007. TB, which affects 64% of the population, is also a major problem. USAID’s support of the national TB-control program and the expansion of community-based services have helped maintain detection rates of new TB cases at approximately 70%. These programs boast treatment success rates of up to 90%. USAID’s avian influenza program has raised public awareness about this growing problem and strengthened the national response to suspected outbreaks. USAID is also working to combat the growing problems of drug-resistant malaria and dengue fever.
The school drop-out rate is high, so USAID is focused on improving education quality and increasing access for marginalized populations. USAID is improving education quality by training teachers in the four poorest provinces on how to use the newly approved national curriculum and learning standards, assisting school directors to measure school performance, strengthening the leadership of the educational system, and utilizing student interventions such as scholarships. In USAID-targeted areas, enrollment rates have increased by 13% in primary schools and 9% in secondary schools. Two-thirds of targeted schools report reduced dropout rates, and 71% report a reduction in students repeating grades.
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