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Twice a year, an honorary medical team from “Doctors of the World” (Ärzte der Welt e. V.”) travel to Phnom Penh to provide advanced training for local medical personnel. the team of experts assists the local organization “Smile Cambodia” with surgical interventions.


The destination of the trip taken by the team in February was the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital and the local NGO “Smile Cambodia.” This time around it was made up of two oral and facillo-facial surgeons, a plastic surgeon and an ENT specialist. In addition, there were three anesthesiologists and one surgical nurse on board ready to assist and advise the others. During the two-week stint, a total of 39 operations were performed.

Among the patients were many children who had been born with a particularly disfiguring cleft palate. As an impoverished country, Cambodia cannot afford adequate surgical treatment of such severe malformations without help from abroad. The health care system of this Southeast-Asian country struggles with undersupply in many places. State health care is lacking, just like modern equipment and experienced physicians. Essential medication is often only available on the black market. 

The dramatic lack of medical personnel is one consequence of the dictatorship endured by Cambodia until well into the 1990s. The regime persecuted academics, among them doctors, while systematically destroying hospitals.

“Doctors of the World” devotes itself worldwide to medical care for disadvantaged people, with their focus lying on women and children. Politically speaking, the organization advocates free access to health care as a human right.