Healthcare in Cambodia



After years of civil unrest that ended only in the early 1990s, Cambodia is still reeling from the devastating effects of its history. Now, it is on its way to recovery with international aid pouring in. At the moment, its healthcare system is undergoing an evolution that is expected to culminate in an effective and reliable approach to healthcare in the country. 

Since the Cambodian general elections in 1993, the country has been able to develop its national health system. Continuous development led Cambodia to improve its healthcare system, as well as the health status of its citizens. However, despite such progress in the health sector of the country, Cambodia’s Ministry of Health still faces significant challenges. One of the biggest challenges of Cambodia’s healthcare system is accessibility. Since the poverty rate of the country is quite high, a lot of poor Cambodians cannot afford medical services in hospitals and health centres. Expatriates who have decided to relocate to Cambodia should ensure that they have adequate healthcare coverage to ensure their wellbeing in case of an emergency situation considering that even the majority of the locals have limited access to proper medical services. 

Understanding the Healthcare System 

Cambodia’s healthcare system is based largely on curative medicine and has low significance in primary healthcare. In an attempt to improve this condition, Cambodia’s Department of Epidemiology has been collaborating with UNICEF regarding primary health care in the country. In coordination with labour unions, they are educating Cambodians about preventative healthcare through different mediums, such as television, newspaper, radio, posters, seminars with flip charts, and audio-visual displays. 

The development of the health system in Cambodia is hugely deterred by the lack of sanitation, adequate water supply, transportation, education, and communication. Most of the common illnesses prevalent in Cambodia are associated with water and sanitation, such as diarrhoeal diseases. Malaria, malnutrition, and tuberculosis are also rampant in the country. Cambodia’s still continuous its efforts in upgrading its healthcare system and today, the Ministry of Health puts significant emphasis on the importance of immunising children. Vaccination coverage has reached 80% in Phnom Penh alone while rural areas have recorded vaccination coverage of 30-60%. Children nationwide are receiving immunisation against tuberculosis, tetanus, measles, diphtheria and polio which are some of the leading causes of death in Cambodia. 


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Cambodian Traditional Medicine 

Using traditional medicine in Cambodia has already been part of the country’s culture, with practices focusing on the Kru Khmer or traditional healers found all over the country. Western teachings were banned by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, making traditional medicine the only accessible form of care at the time. Although modern medicine is now available in Cambodia, traditional medicine is still widely used especially in remote provinces and is supported by the Cambodian government. 

Cambodia has various groups of traditional medicine healers. It includes the male and female Kru Khmers, mediums known as “KruCholRuup,” as well as Buddhist monks. Most of the time they work from home or in pagodas where they treat patients. Traditional healers also grow medicinal plants and teach their disciples. There is usually at least one Kru Khmer in every Cambodian village and province and several in bigger areas. 

Doctors and Medical Services 

As of now, there are not many doctors in Cambodia, and if there are, the equipment needed to perform many vital medical procedures are either lacking or non-existent. Expats may see a doctor in Cambodia but only for consultation purposes. Basic medical costs are covered by Cambodia's public health insurance, but anything that comes in excess will have to be taken care of by international health insurance in Cambodia. Most expats believe this could be necessary as most of them will not be able to use local health care facilities due to their substandard quality. 

Usually, when there is a need for a special procedure done, expats fly abroad, mostly to neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Thailand, or anywhere they feel comfortable while seeking medical care. It is because expats often do not have confidence in the treatments provided in the hospitals in Cambodia. It is also of utmost importance that expats take out an insurance policy that covers emergency medical repatriation in case they need to be transferred to a hospital abroad during an urgent situation. 

Hospitals in Cambodia 

Most of the most modernised hospitals in this country are situated in major cities such as Phnom Penh, the capital, that houses four central and nine district hospitals. Hospitals in Cambodia have assigned specialities such as surgery, orthopaedics, trauma and ENT (Ears, Nose & Throat). As mentioned earlier, the only city in Cambodia where expats can find an acceptable standard of health care is in Phnom Penh and some of the hospitals in this city are: 

Krong Preah Sihanouk, Cambodia

Tel: +855 34 933 911

Pasteur St. (51), Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tel: +855 12 816 911

18 Samdech Mongkol Iem St. (228), Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tel: +855 23 426 091

Senei Vinnavaut Oum Ave (254), Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tel: +855 23 211 300



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