By Henry Bowman
21 Mar 2008
One of the most heartbreaking sights that I have witnessed is in Phnom Penh, the wealthiest and most populous city in Cambodia. The burgeoning capital city has a 100-acre garbage dump at Stung Meanchey where over 900 tons of garbage is dumped daily and a small society (including many children) scavenge through piles of smoldering trash.
Dense clouds of black smoke rise from the burning debris; the air is permeated with toxic gasses. I could barely stand it for a few minutes, yet people live in this daily.
People have set up a village on the fringe of this harsh environment and live on an average of 50-75 cents per day while the International Poverty Standard equals less than $1.00 per day.
As a result of working and living at the dump, the residents are susceptible to all types of injuries, diseases, nutritional issues and even death. We heard of children being buried alive while running behind trucks that were dumping their load. Potable water for drinking and cleaning is at a premium. Burns, cuts, bruises and broken bones are common and just the shear nature of the environment is a haven for infection and parasites. Medical care and assistance is sparse.
I was visiting with a Non-Government Organization (NGO) that provided volunteer medical assistance to the residents. The organization is also involved with relocating orphan's and families several miles away to a village where children get an education, clothes and nutritional meals.