By Jo Lynn Garing, Public Relations Manager, Kiwanis International
Insect repellant. Check. Hat for sun protection. Check. Comfortable shoes. Check.
When preparing for any trip, a checklist is a must. But preparing for a journey to a less developed country—a country full of disparities between those living in urban areas with access to health services and education and those in rural villages who lack basic necessities like clean water—takes more than a checklist. It takes mental preparation, research and a passion to help those most vulnerable—the children.
I feel prepared for my journey to Cambodia, but I know I won’t be fully prepared to experience all that we will see. Cambodia is a mysterious place; a country on the verge of opportunity, but still lagging behind neighboring countries—more than a third of its citizens are struggling to survive on less than a dollar a day. It’s a country that endured years of civil war only to lose nearly two million people from 1975 to 1979, at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. These Cambodians, many well-educated members of society, died from torture, execution or starvation and untreated illness.
Today, Cambodia is making progress, evidenced by the fact that the country has recently completed three rounds of a tetanus immunization campaign and is working its way toward MNT elimination. Still, there is much work left to do. Only one out of every two Cambodians has access to safe drinking water and less than one in four has access to a toilet. Many infants and children suffer from malnutrition. Progress still needs to be made to protect children from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
On our site visit, the Kiwanis delegation will learn how UNICEF is working with the Royal Government of Cambodia to address these and other challenges.
We’ll visit health centers that provide treatment to malnourished children. We’ll learn about school-based sanitation programs. We’ll witness women and children in rural villages being immunized against preventable diseases. We’ll learn about efforts to protect children. We’ll observe mothers being trained to provide home-based early childhood education. We’ll learn how the country plans to achieve and maintain MNT elimination. We’ll visit a salt iodization plant and local salt market to see how children are protected from iodine deficiency disorder, the leading preventable cause of mental disability.
It will be an amazing journey. Won’t you join us?
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