The Minister of Health and the Minister of Social Welfare, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, announced today the launch of a three-year program which aims to reach 275,000 Cambodians with assistive technology.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 26, 2023—A comprehensive national workplan, led by the Government of Cambodia promises to dramatically increase access to assistive technology, in particular: prosthetics, wheelchairs and glasses by 2025. This marks a significant step forward towards improving healthcare services for people living with disabilities and those with vision impairments in the country.
The program, funded by ATscale, the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, is implemented with the assistance of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Humanity & Inclusion (HI) and the Cambodia Disabled People Organization (CDPO). ATscale support to the Government of Cambodia to strengthen assistive technology services comprises USD 3.2 million over three years, with interventions spanning across enabling environment, visual impairment, and physical disability and mobility.
The launch event, which took place at Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh on Thursday 26th October 2023, under the joint leadership of the Minister of Health and the Minister of Social Welfare, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation of the Government of Cambodia, was attended by representatives of people living with disabilities, as well as senior government officials and development partners, including CHAI, HI, CDPO, WHO, UNDP, DFAT, GIZ, Fred Hollows Foundation, UNICEF, ICRC, Exceed ,and the association of physical therapists.
During the launch, H.E. Professor Chheang Ra, Minister of Health, mentioned that the need for assistive technology is high – with an estimated 2.2 million people living with disabilities, including over 320,000 people with very significant difficulties functioning. These estimates do not account for Cambodians with mild impairments, for instance those who may need eyeglasses. According to the national strategic plan for blindness prevention and control 2021-2030, there is an estimated 0.5% of the population with uncorrected refractive error , meaning that about 750,000 Cambodians are needing spectacles. In the upcoming years, it is anticipated that these numbers will greatly increase as Cambodia’s population is growing and ageing.
H.E. Minister Chea Somethy, Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation pointed out that “Assistive Technology, such as glasses, hearing aids and prosthetics, enable people to live more healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives, and to participate in education, the labor market and civic life”. The Government of Cambodia’s ambition and commitment is to rapidly expand access to assistive technologies, while strengthening the enabling environment and promoting long-term sustainability of services.
“ATscale is still a very young initiative, and Cambodia is one of the first countries we have partnered with,” explained Pascal Bijleveld, ATscale CEO. “I was here a year and a half ago for some initial discussions, and it is wonderful to see how things have progressed since. It is a real pleasure to be here to officially launch ATscale’s partnership with the government of Cambodia and I feel very hopeful about the growing momentum I am seeing in this country”.
“Having access to assistive technology is one of the big equity drives that will allow everyone to fill their full potential within society, and we must remember that this launch is only the beginning. When we invest in it, we create a world where care is available, accessible, and affordable regardless of circumstance and economic status.” said Soleine Scotney, Country Director of CHAI Cambodia. “Alongside our consortium partners, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) and the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization (CDPO), CHAI is proud to support the Royal Government of Cambodia to deliver on this crucial mandate.”
The program will strengthen quality of services at public rehabilitation centers and vision centers, expand outreach to the community, and further build a skilled workforce to meet the unmet need, among other interventions.