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Number of orphanages in Cambodia rises to 267 last year, up 92 pct: survey

PHNOM PENH, March 24 (Xinhua) -- A new survey released by Cambodia's Social Affairs Ministry on Thursday showed that the number of residential care institutions in the country's five key provinces increased to 267 last year, up 92 percent from only 139 in the year before.

The survey, conducted in Phnom Penh City and Siem Reap, Battambang, Preah Sihanouk and Kandal provinces, found that some 11,788 children were living in the residential care institutions in 2015, up 56 percent from only 7,545 in a year earlier.

"The findings confirm our long-held concerns over an uncontrolled increase of residential care institutions in the country, putting the well-being and safety of children living in unmonitored institutions at risk." Social Affairs Minister Vong Sauth said in a press statement.

"We conducted this survey as part of our effort to grasp the real scope of the proliferation of residential care institutions and to account for facilities where children reside to ensure adequate supervision and regular annual inspection," he said.

Additionally, a total of 57 group homes, 20 transit homes, 11 pagodas and other religious buildings and 46 boarding schools housing children were recorded in those five provinces. A further 6,663 children were living in those facilities when the survey was conducted.

Most of the residential care institutions were found to be providing long-term care, defined as more than six months, despite problems associated with keeping children in institutions for long periods of time.

"Because of the potential harms to the child of living in residential care institutions, including increased risk of physical and sexual abuse and negative impact on the child's overall development, we continue to emphasize the importance of family and community-based care for children," said Debora Comini, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Representative to Cambodia.

"Residential care institutions must be regarded as the last resort, and only as a temporary solution, for children without parental or family care," she said.

There are many factors that can influence a family's decision to send children to a residential care institution, according to the statement. This includes separation of the parents, poverty, migration of the parents, in addition to the misguided perception that residential care is a good option for better education and care.

In Cambodia, three out of four children, or about 77 percent, living in residential care have at least one living parent and their kinship is known, it said.

According to the statement, the mapping report of residential care institutions in the remaining 20 provinces in the country will be finalized and released during 2016.

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