Cambodia’s ‘Urban Survival Gap’ Among World’s Worst

In Cambodia’s urban areas, poor children are 4.7 times more likely to die before reaching the age of 5 than the children of wealthy parents, making the country’s “urban survival gap” one of the largest in the world, according to a new report.

Released on Monday, Save the Children’s 16th annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report, which ranks the best and worst places to be a mother, focused on the struggles mothers face in caring for their children amid increasing urban development.

Based on scores in five categories—maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status, economic status and political status—Cambodia ranked 132 out of 179 countries surveyed.

While large, Cambodia’s urban survival gap is narrowing, according to the report, with mortality rates for children from impoverished families half what they were 10 years ago.

The report also stated that Phnom Penh had the lowest child death rate for any capital city in a low-income country, at 18 deaths per 1,000 live births, a figure that dropped by nearly two-thirds between 2000 and 2010.

According to Ranjan Poudyal, Save the Children’s country director in Cambodia, the higher mortality rate among poor children was partly due to their families’ limited access to healthcare.

“The issue is that poor urban children have been living in slums, and healthcare is not there. The living conditions are poor and as a result the death rate of urban poor children are much higher in comparison to the middle class,” Mr. Poudyal said.

“When I have been to clinics here, I see that the services are not free; they are charged, and this is barrier when people do not have the ability to pay,” he added.

Ly Chan Sopha, a mother who makes a living selling cigarettes, sodas and rain jackets along the road in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district, noted that the public hospital system was not free, either.

“At the children’s hospital, they charge you. I spend $1.50 dollars to buy a ticket and then I have to give the doctor money for his services,” she said Tuesday.

Even if the hospital doesn’t require us to pay, I can tell by their gestures that they want me too.”

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