What is Speech therapy and why is it needed in Cambodia?

Currently, Cambodia has fewer than 10 internationally qualified speech therapists in the country. There is not yet a comprehensive academic training program to train Cambodians in this profession. However, there is a growing group of professionals embracing aspects of speech therapy practice in health, education, and rehabilitation settings. OIC Cambodia and other organizations have been working to establish a strong foundation for developing a recognized speech therapy workforce.  

OIC Cambodia’s History and Strategy
OIC Cambodia began as a project in 2013 formed with a broad vision to see speech therapy led by Cambodians and available to all who need it. Our initial surveys found an overwhelming lack of services, awareness, or advocates for the estimated 600,000 Cambodian people with communication or swallowing difficulties.

Formally becoming a registered organisation in 2017, OIC Cambodia has focused its activities on lobbying government and leaders to understand the need for speech therapy, as well as building capacity in education, rehabilitation, and health systems. Our technical team has piloted speech pathology services and projects in a variety of contexts and well as provided capacity building and training to people within the health, disability, and education sectors. There is 10 years of resources, relationships, and experience to build on at this important time for speech therapy in Cambodia.

We currently have 13 staff (10 Cambodian, 3 foreign). Our team believes the most sustainable approach to meet the needs of the Cambodian population, is through the development of a government-recognized, culturally relevant, university-qualified, Cambodian speech therapy profession. This belief is reflected in our exit goal of 100 Cambodian university-qualified speech therapists integrated into Cambodia’s public sector by 2030.

Current activities

Our overarching goal includes the development of university training programs, creation of speech therapy jobs, and the integration of services into Cambodian systems and policy.

OIC Cambodia is strongly committed to partnership as we see this as essential to integrating speech pathology into Cambodian systems, services, and society. Our activities include engagement with the Cambodian government, and non-government organizations, with strong networks in Cambodia and overseas.

Milestones include:

  • In 2017, OIC Cambodia registered with the Cambodian government as a Cambodian non-government organization.
  • Since 2018 we have worked with the Education Ministry,  training and coaching primary and preschool teachers in early child language development and support strategies for children with communication difficulties.
  • Since 2019 OIC has undertaken a number of activities to increase the evidence base for ST in Cambodia, with the lived experience of people with communication disabilities (2019) publishing a peer-reviewed paper highlighting ST in Cambodia (2022), and conducting new research into Care-giving and Care-seeking behaviors for communication difficulties in Cambodia (2022). This research will be further built on and published in 2023.
  • Since 2020 OIC has partnered with the National Pediatric Hospital to establish pediatric speech pathology services and provide a practical training program for speech therapy assistants within the hospital.  This Speech therapy department and training continues, with OIC ceasing direct involvement in Feb 2023.
  • Since 2021 we have engaged with the Ministry Of Social Affairs (Veteran & Youth) capacity-building rehabilitation centers and community staff and creating referral pathways for children with communication difficulties within Cambodia’s child protection and provincial social service systems. In 2023OICbegan a project designingAAC tools for reporting abuse. This provides an opportunity to train the social service workforce and advocate for inclusive services that support the rights of all people.
  • Since 2021 OIC has led a project aiming to increase the voice of people with communication disabilities within their community and society. We also provided widespread awareness-raising about communication disability and advocacy for inclusive practices. This project continues in 2023, with activities such as communication accessibility audits for health care services, AAC device design, and the use and design of advocacy resources and events.
  • In 2022 OIC was asked by the University of Health Science to develop a curriculum for a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree program in Speech therapy. As well as developing curriculum outlines, in Aug 2023 OIC hosted a UHS delegation trip to Australia where many connections were made with Speech therapy university programs and associations. This work continues with the aim of formal agreements and timelines being signed.


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