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August 5, 1988

Years of Horror, Days of Hope: Responding to the Cambodian Refugee Crisis

JAMA. 1988;260(5):709-710. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410050129049

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The Cambodian refugee crisis is described from the viewpoint of 50 authors, including physicians, nurses, aides, and other health workers serving as volunteers or as staff of international relief organizations responding to the crisis. This was a truly international response with at least 11 nations represented. The reports of Cambodians participating in the relief operation further broaden the perspective.

Cambodia is similar to Missouri in area and population size. The ancient civilization there has had some French influence from about a century of colonization. After the overthrow of the proWestern Lon Nol government by the communist Khmer Rouge in April 1975, urban populations were forced from cities, dislocating most of the people into rural areas far from their homes with little food and housing, poor sanitation, and virtually no services. In a pogrom along class lines, anyone appearing educated or prosperous was killed. During the next four years about 2