Updated at 11:25 a.m. EST on 2012-09-08
A group of hospitals offering free care to children in Cambodia is in danger of closing due to insufficient support and has begun a campaign to raise funds, highlighting what one nongovernmental organization has called the “desperately poor” state of health care in the Southeast Asian country.
Run by Swiss pediatrician Beat Richner, 65, the Kuntha Bopha hospitals—with four facilities in the country’s capital Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap province—provide medical treatment, surgery, and vaccinations at no charge to Cambodian children.
However, the cost of running the hospitals now tops U.S. $30 million per year, of which Cambodia’s government provides only U.S. $2 million.
And additional funds of U.S. $4 million from the Swiss government and U.S. $22 million from charity will not keep the hospitals in operation, hospital sources say.
Without the care that they provide, the lives of an estimated 3,200 children may be at risk each month, according to the hospital’s website.
Appeals for funds
Fundraising campaigns, including the organizing of concerts and placing of radio and television appeals, have now been set up across the country, sources told RFA’s Khmer service.
T-shirts reading “Together for helping Kuntha Bopha, for children’s health in Cambodia” have also been widely distributed.
“If the hospital closes down or stops providing free services, thousands of Cambodian children—especially those from poor families—will die,” Khiev Sotheara, a Siem Reap resident who recently made a donation together with his wife, told RFA.
And a musical group, four of whose eight members were treated as children in the hospitals, has written a song urging public support which they have performed in a fundraising campaign.
“When I was a child, I suffered from a colon disease and received an operation at the hospital,” said Som Srey Nea, a member of the band.
“Whenever I pass that hospital, I always remember how they helped me, and I thank the group of doctors who helped save my life.”
According to the London-based NGO Health Poverty Action, some 78 percent of Cambodians live in “deep poverty,” with four out of five living on less than U.S $2 per day.
The group calls health care provision in the country “desperately poor.”
Despite government directives to doctors to provide care without regard to socioeconomic status, reports have surfaced across Cambodia about discriminatory practices against the poor in the country’s hospitals, especially in rural areas.
Reported by Uuon Chin for RFA’s Khmer services. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Richard Finney.
CORRECTION: An earlier version stated that the Cambodian government provides U.S. $1 million per year.