Known for its scenic and natural beauty, featuring forests and rice paddies, the Kingdom of Cambodia is bordered by Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Predominantly Buddhist, Cambodia has a population of approximately 17.3 million, mostly from the Khmer ethnic group and speaking the Khmer language. Other ethnicities include Cham, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Most of the population is concentrated in the southeast, around the capital, Phnom Penh, with other large populations near the Tonle Sap lake—Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake—and the Mekong River.
A former colony of France, Cambodia won its independence in 1953. Over the past two decades, Cambodia has experienced significant economic expansion, with an average 8 percent annual growth between 1998 and 2018, fueled primarily by a robust tourism industry, in addition to garment exports. As a result, poverty decreased from 48 percent in 2007 to 14 percent in 2014. While this is a significant improvement, the quality of health and education remain challenged as a whole.
Economic growth has yielded overall improvements in the health status of the population. Life expectancy has increased to 70 years of age, and maternal mortality has decreased. However, there remains room for improvement. The most common causes of death include stroke, lower respiratory infections, cirrhosis, tuberculosis, neonatal disorders, diabetes, COPD, lung cancer, road injuries, and HIV/AIDS. Risk factors such as malnutrition, air pollution, alcohol and tobacco use, high blood sugar, and diet contribute to the heavy burden of non-communicable disease.
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