July 21, 2012: Children in Cambodia are at risk of falling prey to a deadly virus that since April has claimed 60 young lives in the nation’s southern and central provinces. In an unprecedented step, the government of Cambodia has issued orders to close all schools until the situation is brought under control.
|A group of boys and girls on their way to school in SOS Children's Village Phnom Penh, Cambodia. |
So far, SOS Children’s Villages in Cambodia have not been affected, though SOS Schools in Phnom Penh
closed as of July 18.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Cambodian government, lab tests confirm that the deaths were likely caused by the Enterovirus 71 (E-71), a virulent strain associated with a form of hand, foot, and mouth disease (which afflicts only animals).
Most of the children affected are under three years old. They experience fever, respiratory, and neurological symptoms.
Scourge Has Already Hit Other Parts of Asia
|A boy from SOS Battambang, Cambodia writing. The SOS School in Battambang opened in 2009, offers grades one through twelve, and enrolls 500 students from the local region.|
Similar cases have been reported from the areas of Thailand bordering northern and western Cambodia. In the past few years the virus has killed hundreds of children in China and Vietnam. The recent outbreak in Cambodia is a first.
“Further investigation is ongoing and this includes the matching of the laboratory and epidemiological information,” Cambodia's health minister H.E. Mam BunHeng said in a joint statement with WHO. “We hope to be able to conclude our investigation in the coming days,” he continued.
SOS in Cambodia Since 2000
Years of political conflict, poverty, migration, and high HIV/AIDS rates have left some 570,000 Cambodia children without parental care. About 45 percent of children ages 5 to 18 are engaged in child labor. They work on farms, in quarries, in the fishing industry, and as domestic servants. Some beg on the streets.
There are over 500 SOS Villages around the world, four of which are located in Cambodia. All SOS Villages work to improve children's prospects and bolster families.
You can help fight the this deadly virus by donating to SOS Children's Villages today.