Cambodia: Helping Child Road Accident Survivors


Every day more than 500 children die in road accidents—mostly in developing countries. Thousands more children face life-long disabilities due to road accidents. Handicap International is currently one of only a few international NGOs fighting for safety measures to protect vulnerable road users. We also provide rehabilitation and prosthetic limbs to injured children and adults in several countries with a high rate of accidents, including Cambodia. Below is the story of Kanhara, an eight-year-old Cambodian girl we recently helped.

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The wedding feast of Kanhara’s aunt was in full swing in the village of Phum Lekh, Cambodia. The three-year-old girl crossed the dirt road by the reception area to fetch some balloons. As she stood by the roadside waiting to cross back, a speeding van veered up on to the grass and struck her. Wedding guests ran to Kanhara’s side and discovered that her right arm and leg had been crushed by the van. Someone found a car and drove her and her father to the nearest hospital.

Kanhara needed six months of intensive care, several operations, and multiple skin grafts. Both her right arm and leg were amputated. She returned home without ever receiving specific care for her disabilities.

Despite the trauma of the accident and her disabilities, Kanhara was determined to live as normal a life as possible. She took care of her younger siblings and insisted on going to school, hopping back and forth on one leg every day. Despite being mocked by some students, the girl made friends and learned to hold a book and write with her left hand.

In 2015, five years after the accident, Davann, a Handicap International social worker, spotted Kanhara while visiting another child with disabilities in the village. He immediately referred her to Handicap International’s rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, 12 miles from her home. In February, Kanhara received her first prosthetic leg and learned to walk with it after just a few hours of practice—an unusual feat.

“My new leg changed my life,” says Kanhara. “I can walk now, and play hide-and-go-seek and hop-scotch with my friends. I used to fall down and some students laughed at me. Now, some of them still make fun of me, but that doesn’t matter.”

As she continues to grow, Handicap International will fit her with new prosthetic legs two or three time per year. In several years’ time, when the muscles in her right shoulder are strong enough, she can be fitted with a prosthetic arm.

“Kanhara is intelligent and very mature for her age,” says Davann, her Handicap International social worker. “Because she’s a good student and still facing bullying at her local school, we’d like to cover the cost of sending Kanhara to a new school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. She’ll have a better chance of succeeding in life if she goes to a good school where she won’t face as much discrimination.”