With an estimated per capita income of USD$280, Cambodia is the poorest and least developed country in East Asia and one of the poorest in the world. At least thirty-six percent of Cambodia's fourteen million people live on less than fifty cents per day. Half of Cambodia's children under age five are malnourished.

Although some improvements have been made in recent years, the health situation in Cambodia may still be the worst in the East Asia region. Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the infant mortality rate is more than double the regional average rate. Malaria and tuberculosis cause thousands of deaths per year. The incidence of HIV/AIDS infection is growing rapidly and may soon overtake other causes of death. The complex social and economic conditions that are both causes and effects of health crises make health care a critical challenge facing Cambodia. For example, health problems, which decrease individual worker productivity and impact family finances, have been causally linked to much of the landlessness and extreme poverty in rural areas.