Samaritan's Purse is working to restore the joy of motherhood destroyed by genocide in Cambodia
It’s impossible to overstate the horror of the genocide inflicted on Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. One of the heartless regime’s slogans stated, “To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss.”
In three years, eight months, and 20 days (1975-1979) the Khmer Rouge exterminated one fifth of Cambodia’s population. Pol Pot, the infamous dictator, ruthlessly pursued the creation of an agrarian-based communist society and eliminated anyone perceived as a threat.
Millions of people were ordered to evacuate cities and trek to rural areas, where they were forced to work long hours on farms with little food. If a man resisted, he was killed. If a woman was too slow, she was killed. Many who escaped death from a weapon instead died in a labor camp from starvation or exhaustion.
Although anyone could be killed for any reason, the Khmer Rouge especially targeted the educated. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists—anyone in a professional trade was murdered along with their families. Many were mercilessly killed just for wearing glasses because they appeared educated.
Pol Pot also wiped out Cambodia’s infrastructure. Financial institutions, hospitals, schools, and businesses were destroyed. Religion was banned, and tens of thousands of Buddhist monks were killed along with members of religious minority groups, including thousands of Christians.
Children were separated from their families and indoctrinated by the Khmer Rouge. They were encouraged to divulge incriminating information about their parents and taught not to trust anyone.
The regime was overthrown when Vietnam invaded in 1979, but not before it had eliminated an estimated 1.7 million of its own countrymen.
A new, relatively stable era began, but the country lay in shambles. Cambodia struggled to rebuild. How do you restore a health care system without doctors? How do you reopen universities without teachers?
Survivors of the Khmer Rouge started over with nothing. Even the family structure was broken. This led to a collapse in the role of motherhood throughout the country.
Little girls grew up without older women to teach them how to make a healthy meal or practice good hygiene. Their children then grew up without understanding the importance of things like nurturing a child or taking care of themselves during pregnancy. Role models simply didn’t exist anymore.
The consequences of the Khmer Rouge persist today.
While the thought of being a mother should bring joy to women around the world, it elicits fear for many Cambodian women. An alarming number of mothers and their children in rural areas lose their lives every year due to poor health care, nutrition, and education.
No one was around to show them how to do simple things like feed vegetables to their children, and in the decades since no one has come to many of the remote villages to show them a better way.
Samaritan’s Purse is launching a 10-day campaign to restore the joy of motherhood. Our Maternal and Child Health program in the remote Kratie province has already helped thousands of women and children by training about proper nutrition, good parenting, and safe pregnancy. Our staff incorporates Scripture into the lessons and prays with the women. God is using the program to bring the light of the Gospel into villages where many people have never even heard about Christ.
Savet, a mother of four, learned how to cook healthy meals for her children and her 4-year-old son, Vicheko, is no longer malnourished. Chanda now understands how to nurture her 3-year-old daughter, Chandy, and has become a health promoter for her village.
We are building desperately needed maternal wards at health centers. Women like Sophie, who has lost two children while trying to give birth, will finally have access to a delivery room and a place to stay before and after their babies are born.
This month alone, we are training over 100 health center staff on pre- and post-natal care in order to help more women and their babies survive childbirth and live healthy lives.
We want to expand our program so that mothers in rural villages who thought they were forgotten can receive help and also hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
On Sunday, Samaritan’s Purse is launching 10 Days for M’Dai, a campaign to improve obstetric care, nutrition practices, and access to health care in remote areas of the country. M’Dai means “mother” in the local language, and it is our prayer that we can help restore the joy of motherhood in this part of Cambodia.
“Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come” (Proverbs 31:25, NKJV).