Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Living without light in rural Cambodia

Around 70 per cent of people in Cambodia have no access to electricity. Most villages in the Cambodian countryside are blanketed in darkness after the sun goes down.

Living without light puts children at risk. It also means children cannot study or complete their homework at night, leaving many students to fall behind.

Thirteen-year-old Tharin lives with her family in rural Kratie province, in the northeast of Cambodia. Like most villagers they live in a simple wooden house with a thatched roof and no access to electricity.

Tharin’s house has burned down twice due to accidents with their kerosene lamp. In one of the fires, her father’s leg was burned, leaving him permanently disabled.

“On that day I studied and forgot to put out the lamp as I fell asleep,” Tharin recalls. “When the lamp burned my house’s wall, I could smell it burning and felt that my hair was in the heat.”

Tharin called her mum for help, who in turn alerted her father and neighbour.

“When my dad tried to put out the fire, the lamp collapsed and the kerosene spilled on his trousers,” says Tharin.

For 12-year-old Kakada, living without light makes it hard to keep up with his studies.

“When I have no money to buy kerosene, I use fire sticks to cast light on my reading books so that I can read,” he says. “Sometimes I cannot study at home as I have no money to buy kerosene.”

The darkness also makes it dangerous to move around, says Kakada, adding: “When I go to the toilet at night, I cut my feet with pieces of glass and nails.”

Meet Tharin and Kakada in this video:

70 per cent of people in Cambodia have no access to electricity. Most villages in the Cambodian countryside are blanketed in darkness after the sun goes down.

Read more about access to energy in the 2016 Annual Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates.

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