Day to day life is a struggle for many families in O'Rumcheck. People use tree fungus and ants to add to rice when they have no other vegetables and protein. Common diseases include, Malaria, TB, Respiratory Disease, Diarrhoea, Skin Infection, Dengue Fever and Diabetes.
The infant mortality rate is 68 per 1000 while in Australia it is 4 per 1000. Life expectancy is 62 years. In Australia it is 82. The official poverty line in Cambodia is US$1.25/day. The number of people below the poverty line in rural areas is up to 79%.
The villages where New ERA works are in the vicinity of Pol Pot’s stronghold which is the most heavily land-mined area and fighting did not end until the late 1990’s.
The devastation Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge wreaked on his country remains, even three decades later. His goal, as he put it, was to return Cambodia to "year zero" and transform it into an agrarian utopia.
To that end, he purged his nation of educated city dwellers, monks, and minorities, while imposing a draconian resettlement program that uprooted almost everyone else.
These measures led to the deaths of one-quarter of the country's population and total destruction of all infrastructure including schools.
Today there is fighting between Khmer and Thai soldiers only a couple of kilometres from one of New ERA’s projects. Two years ago two men in a truck were killed 200 m from O’Rumchek village when they drove over an anti-tank mine. A family of four was killed in Chrung village a couple of months before we built the school when their rice cart drove over a land mine. It has been estimated that 10 million mines were laid in Cambodia.