The district of Battambang is one of the poorest in Cambodia – an estimated 40 per cent of the population lives on less than one US dollar a day. Poverty is especially striking in rural areas. Many households do not have access to agricultural land of their own – they work as seasonal day labourers. They often live in precarious shacks which are put together with bits of wood and plastic. Many families are tempted to migrate to Thailand in search of a better life. Human traffickers operate in the area, promising vulnerable people jobs where they can make a decent living. However, these promises are false and all the members of the family, including children, can end up in conditions akin to slavery.
Over 43 per cent of the population of the region is under the age of 18. Children suffer most from the harsh social and economic conditions – the under-five mortality rate is higher than average for Cambodia, and the number of children suffering from malnutrition is alarming. Children are often required to work on the land as they have to provide food for the family. Because of their involvement in the fields, they often do not go to school – it is therefore hard to improve their prospects for the future. Furthermore, these stressful conditions have a huge impact on family life, and many fall apart, leaving countless children without parental care.