SEATTLE, Washington — The World Health Organization (WHO) has been a major player in global COVID-19 relief efforts. WHO’s necessity in the fight against COVID-19 rings true for many Southeast Asian countries, especially Cambodia.
Cambodia is a developing country in Southeast Asia with a population of over 16 million people. According to the 2019 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index issued by the United Nations, 37.2% of the country still lives in poverty . Despite the abundance of poverty and a poor healthcare system, Cambodia only has 124 known cases of COVID-19 with no known deaths, as of early May. Aside from Laos with only 19 cases, Cambodia has fewer coronavirus cases than many southeastern Asian countries.
Cambodia’s Healthcare System
Although Cambodia made many advances to its healthcare system, it was still in an unstable state when the coronavirus outbreak hit and, as a result, it took a toll on Cambodian citizens.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, “medical facilities and services in Cambodia do not meet international standards.” There are hospitals in the nation’s two biggest cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. However, outside of these places medical care is scarce. Consequently, Cambodian officials are highly concerned about the impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the country.
There are currently no reported infections among healthcare workers in Cambodia. The country quickly responded to its cases; 85 of which amassed abroad. Cambodia also administered 11,869 tests from January through early May.
The Government’s Response
The first reported case of COVID-19 in Cambodia occurred in late January. Almost three months later, the government announced the closure of all schools. The government has since implemented several social distancing measures and international travel restrictions. The Prime Minister also canceled this year’s Khmer New Year, which occurs annually in April and is one of the nation’s largest celebrations.
How WHO is Helping
Though all but one of Cambodia’s coronavirus patients have recovered, the virus continues to be a health security threat to the country.
According to a report from the 2019 Global Health Security Index, Cambodia ranked 89 out of 195 countries for global health security and preparedness. WHO partnered with the Ministry of Health and the Royal Government of Cambodia to prevent further spread of the virus and minimize the negative social and economic impacts.
With support from WHO, the Royal Government of Cambodia developed and implemented the “National Master Plan for COVID-19.” The overall goal is to control the spread of the virus and minimize the health, social and economic impacts in the country. WHO provides “policy advice and technical support” to Cambodia, supporting its response to the present circumstances and preparation for a possible widespread transmission.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and the COVID-19 risk to Cambodia persists. We must be vigilant, we must be a new normal, and we must be ready for an emergency response in the future,” said Dr. Li Ailan, WHO Representative to Cambodia.
Though the full impact of the coronavirus in Cambodia remains uncertain, it is incredible see that despite the limited access to healthcare there have been no fatalities due to COVID-19. One can only hope good news will continue to reign as WHO and the nation’s government continue to work together to appropriately respond to COVID-19 in Cambodia.
– Emma Benson