Handicap International was founded in 1982 to provide the survivors of Cambodian landmine explosions with prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation—a task the organization is still carrying out today. The organization also clears mines, educates the public about the risks posed by these weapons, and runs a number of other disability prevention and inclusion projects in the country. Handicap International employs 115 Cambodians and six expatriates in Cambodia.
Cambodia still bears the scars of its violent recent history and the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979). An estimated 1.5 to 3 million people died during Cambodia’s “self-genocide”. Millions of landmines were used and untold numbers of bombs were dropped on the country both during the Vietnam War and the subsequent Khmer Rouge period. These weapons continue to claim new victims today. The presence or suspected presence of mines prevents people from farming their fields and going about their everyday business. Unable to find alternative ways of feeding their families, some people try to cultivate mined fields regardless of the risks. Despite its recent record of political stability and relative prosperity, Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries in the world.
Around 65,000 people have fallen victim to landmines and ERW in Cambodia—70% of whom are permanently injured and will need life-long assistance. Since 1982, Handicap International has offered orthopedic-fitting and physical therapy to enable mine victims to “stand tall”. Currently, Handicap International contributes to the quality and sustainability of the rehabilitation sector in Cambodia by providing staff training and administrative support to provincial rehabilitation centers.
Maternal and child health
Handicap International aims to reduce the number of children with disabilities through the early detection and diagnosis of disabling impairments. Health officers and volunteers organize information sessions to educate pregnant women and young mothers about child disability. Training underlines the importance of visiting health centers, hospitals, or rehabilitation centers so that health professional can quickly intervene when impairments are detected. The organization is also working with the Cambodian Ministry of Health to develop a national model for a participatory approach to inclusive healthcare.
Road accidents are a major problem in Cambodia. Almost 90% of road accidents involve the poorest members of society who are more likely to use risky modes of transportation, such as bicycles, motorbikes, and walking. To reduce the number of people injured or killed in road accidents, Handicap International raises awareness of road safety and works with the government officials to influence the drafting of more effective road safety legislation. Staff members also work with schools to educate young people how to stay safe on and near the roads, as well as the dangers of drunk driving.
Since 2000, the organization has been running projects to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in economic activities. The project aims to reduce the social exclusion and poverty of people with disabilities and to improve their living conditions over the long-term. In Siem Reap, Kampong Cham, and Battambang, Handicap International helps people with disabilities realize their potential as persons on an equal basis with their fellow citizens. More than 1,720 people, of which 80% are living with disabilities, have benefited from this project.