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Youth Partner

Name: Ngoun Samnang
Age: 23
Nationality: Cambodian
Affiliated Organization: Mith Samlanh Friends

Ngoun Samnang joined Mith Samlanh Friends, a peer education group funded by UNFPA, when he was 15 years old. Ngoun grew up with other peers on the street, and spent four years of his childhood and teenage life on the street before joining Friends. Initially, Ngoun had worked as a postman for the Friends, and after one year he became an HIV/AIDS peer educator working with street children and teenagers.

Having been through the same difficult time and situation as his peers, Ngoun understands that street teenagers in Cambodia are particularly at high risk for HIV due to their behavior, especially unprotected sex and needle sharing. Street teenagers are often times shy to talk about their problems and issues, and this has created difficulties in prevention intervention activities.

Nevertheless, Ngoun is dedicated to educating his peers, providing HIV prevention knowledge to street youth. Ngoun’s project also supports young people living with HIV/AIDS. Ngoun now has become a Friends’ staff member, specializing in working with street children on a drug prevention and harm reduction program, including hygiene, counseling, and life planning. He is also a team leader in a group work for IEC materials development.

Ngoun enjoys playing volleyball and soccer. He is also a team leader in a group working on the development of IEC materials development.


UNFPA in Cambodia

Cambodia has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the Asian Region with 2.6% of the 12 million population being HIV positive (HSS 2002). Forum SYD (2002; p .12) reported that close to 60% of the reported HIV cases are found in the 15-24 age group.

There is as of yet no formal youth policy in Cambodia. Although the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation have the concept of “youth” in their Strategic Plans, there are no overall strategies for “youth health” in the Ministry of Health. In 2001, UNESCO employed a consultant from Malaysia to work with the Department of Youth of the Ministry of Education to draft a policy for youth. The draft has been translated into Khmer and may be officially adopted.

A large cohort of young Cambodians who are now entering puberty and becoming sexually active are vulnerable to STIs, HIV, unplanned pregnancy, sexual abuse and exploitation. Thus, the UNFPA Country Office, with the support of the Ministry of Health and in collaboration with the European Commission and its partner NGOs, has put great efforts and resources toward an adolescent reproductive health project called Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia (RHIYA). The project is designed to improve access for young Cambodians to information, education, and counselling and youth friendly services with a strong focus on HIV prevention.

UNFPA’s partner NGOs were selected on the basis of their comparative and complementary advantage in terms of approaches and target groups. The overall strategies to address the unmet needs of young Cambodians are to:

  • Strengthen the technical and organizational capacity of selected NGOs to provide IEC and services for young people.
  • Strengthen and expand youth friendly services.
  • Develop RH, BCC/IEC and media activities to target young people.
  • Outreach and peer education initiatives with adolescents and youth.

Successful initiatives that have been identified:

In general, it is felt that fostering greater communication between NGOs, community groups, beneficiaries and government agencies will greatly improve the scope and effectiveness of any future interventions. Involvement of communities is of particular importance at all project stages. It is also crucial to keep in mind the need for different approaches to talk to distinct stakeholders such as religious leaders, families and illiterate people about reproductive health related subjects. Further, projects are successful when different ways of education are used for distinct groups (e.g. for street children, or marginalized youth).
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