Cambodia: Physical rehabilitation programme in Battambang gets a new home

22 April 2016
Cambodia: Physical rehabilitation programme in Battambang gets a new home
A physiotherapist measures a patient’s leg – part of the process in making and fitting an artificial limb. CC BY-NC-ND/ICRC/Thanapa T.

After 25 years of sharing offices with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation's physical rehabilitation centre in Battambang, the ICRC's physical rehabilitation programme has a new base.

The new office, just around the corner from the rehabilitation centre, was inaugurated last November. "It is much better structured and designed to accommodate more staff and to meet the needs of the different programmes," said Daisaku Oka, the new head of office in Battambang.

The physical rehabilitation centre in Battambang province, Cambodia. CC BY-NC-ND/ICRC/Sam Spicer

Since its humble beginnings in 1991, the Battambang physical rehabilitation centre (PRC) has been operating as a small workshop servicing the needs of the communities in five provinces in the north and north-west of Cambodia, some of the most heavily mined areas in the world. In more recent times, the centre has increased its scope through a range of outreach activities, establishing itself as a flagship physical rehabilitation centre, not just in Cambodia but also in the wider ICRC physical rehabilitation programme as a whole.

As well as supporting the Battambang PRC since its early days, the ICRC has also been assisting the PRC centre in Kampong Speu. The number of disabled people benefiting from the services provided at both centres is close to 11,000 every year.

"When I first joined the ICRC, everyone talked about the programme in Battambang. I never thought that I would be lucky enough to work here," said Philip Morgan, the current ICRC programme manager. "It's a privilege for me to come and see the work. It's a serene and relaxed place, perfect for rehabilitative care and so different from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh."

Philip remains optimistic about the future sustainability of the project. "The ICRC has invested a lot of time and resources over the years in providing training to MSVY staff and developing the programme. Although the Ministry has taken over the running of the Battambang centre, there are still issues we need to look at given its limited financial resources. Our focus is on capacity building at the central level, but we will also be continuously monitoring the quality of services that Battambang provides to people," he added.

In parallel to the physical rehabilitation work carried out with patients, the ICRC has stepped into social inclusion projects to help disabled people regain their confidence and re-integrate into society. An income-generating programme, set up in 2015, has added a new facet to the physical rehabilitation programme, whereby patients receive grants to start up income-generating activities, such as mobile coffee shops, mushroom cultivation, poultry farming and sewing.

Additionally, the ICRC has encouraged the playing of different sports as another aspect of social inclusion. The Battambang women's wheelchair basketball team, established in July 2012, continues to make headlines.

Members of the Cambodian women's wheelchair basketball team photographed at the Battambang centre. CC BY-NC-ND/ICRC/Thanapa T.

In Phnom Penh, where the ICRC's country office is located, a new disabled-friendly work-space was inaugurated in February this year.

Beat Schweizer, head of the ICRC's regional delegation in Bangkok, inaugurates the new disabled-friendly office in Phnom Penh, home to the ICRC's Cambodia mission. CC BY-NC-ND/ICRC