Most Cambodians do have homes but perhaps they are not what we in the West are used to. Many Cambodians live on the land and as the family grows more houses are added. Some are landless and with high rates of unemployment and low wage rates the possibility of buying land is extremely challenging for many.

For this reason, many families build themselves a houseboat. The quality of these homes depends on the quality of building materials the family can afford. Often it is very poor.

Does living in such a home make the children of these families less vulnerable than those of families who live on the street? In some ways, perhaps. In other ways, perhaps not.

The toilets built into the houseboats empty untreated straight into the river and guess where many of them get their drinking water. It is possible to buy bottled water as I did while living in Cambodia but for the very poor this is simply not possible. They boil the water from the river and use it for drinking, for cooking and for bathing. I have it on good authority that boiling water containing traces of human excrement does not make it safe for drinking. On top of this their diet would include a large amount of fish caught from the river and guess what the fish have been eating.

There are thousands of families who live on houseboats on the Tonle Sap river and perhaps other rivers that I am not aware of. I don't feel good about their prospects for good health.

I sometimes wonder why people choose to take their families to live on the streets of Phnom Penh. However, I can quite understand that those living the houseboat lifestyle might hope for something better. Perhaps they hear of job opportunities in Phnom Penh, sell up for what little they can get and head off. Perhaps in Phnom Penh the jobs they'd heard about are no longer available and they end up on the street. The could go back but if they've sold their home, such as it was, what can they do?