VCAO (Vulnerable Children Assistance Organization) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established on June 27, 1994. This organization was created by a group of post-Khmer Rouge orphans out of their own concern for other younger children left abandoned and homeless to fence for themselves. These children are often neglected by society, with on one they can turn to for help. Due to extreme poverty, they are at risk for labor exploitation and child sex trafficking. Some children are forced into prostitution for their survival. This puts them at great risk for HIV/AIDS.
Two decades of war have created multiple generations of orphans, who receive little or no education. It is in every child’s right to enjoy the comfort of a home and family, but the reality for Cambodian children is often harsh, full of struggles for survival. They have to work in extreme hardship in places that make them vulnerable to diseases, malnutrition and even death. For example, thousands of children work at municipal dumpsites in Phnom Penh and in other cities in the country. Some get run over by garbage truck or get buried in the heap as they fight for recyclables.
This is why members of VCAO, who are themselves orphans, work with great determination to become big brothers and sisters to these children by providing them with education, love and emotional support.
Cambodia is at a crossroads in its social development, the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF) identifies several key challenges effecting children:
* Cambodia has the highest infant and under-five mortality rates in the region, at 97 and 141 per 1,000 live births, respectively. Vaccine-preventable diseases, diarrhoea, and respiratory infections are among the leading causes of childhood death. Maternal mortality is also high.
* Malnutrition affects most Cambodian children: 45 per cent show moderate or severe stunting.
* Primary school enrolment rates are high, with a declining gender gap. But so many children repeat grades that it takes on average more than 10 years to complete primary school. Less than half of all students make it that far.
* Accidental death, for example as a result of traffic accidents or drowning, is a serious threat to children in Cambodia.
* Landmines pose a grave hazard for internally migrating children and youths who attempt to salvage unexploded ordnance and sell it as valuable scrap metal.
(from: UNICEF Cambodia)