By Suman Khadka, UNICEF Cambodia

Digitalizing Cambodia’s inspection system to better protect children living in residential care

©UNICEF:Cambodia:2016:Charles Fox
Inspection team members learn how to use the new digital tablet for the scrutiny of residential care institutions. ©UNICEF/Cambodia/2016/Charles Fox

In Cambodia, an alarming number of children are orphaned or abandoned, left to grow up in residential care facilities, apart from anyone they’ve known. Of the 5.4 million children under the age of 18 in Cambodia, this is the fate of one in every 350 kids. Of these, 79% have at least one biological parent alive. But they’re lost in a broken system that disadvantages the poor.

UNICEF Cambodia, UNICEF Innovation, the Cambodian Ministry of Social Affairs and Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) came up with an innovative way to help. Recognizing that tracking children goes a long way toward protecting them from getting permanently lost, they created a faster and more efficient inspection system.

Thanks to support from Star Wars: Force for Change, UNICEF was able to develop the technology for a digital tracking system which converts the paper-based method to an Inspection App. The app can complete the equivalent of a 20-page form — a process that previously took multiple days — in just one day.

This is technology at its best. Look for more improvements ahead, as the generous support of Star Wars: Force for Change, combined with ever-increasing availability of technology in Cambodia, allows help solve critical problems for children.

©UNICEF/Cambodia/2016/Charles Fox
The Inspection App for monitoring of residential care institutions is revealed to Inspection team members ©UNICEF/Cambodia/2016/Charles Fox

Institutionalization in Cambodia

Out of 5,583,000 children under the age of 18 in Cambodia, one in every 350 children is currently living in a residential care institution. A residential care institution is a place where full-time care is provided to children who have been orphanWHAed and abandoned, or who cannot stay with their biological families or relatives in communities. Surprisingly, 79 percent of these children have at least one parent. Institutionalizing children is a problem as it deprives them of their right to grow in a family-based environment. Over sixty years of global scientific research shows that living in residential care can harm a child’s social, physical, intellectual and emotional development. The issue in Cambodia is not only about the alarming number of children growing up in residential care, but also the lack of efficient and timely inspection systems that monitor the quality of care given to children.

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