COVID-19 Cash Transfer Programme helping families with the most basic needs
A new COVID-19 Cash Transfer Programme for ID-Poor Households aims to reach around 540,000 households living in poverty.
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Cambodia, 19 June 2020 – The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing many Cambodians into poverty, with an estimate of 390,000 people in Cambodia losing their jobs this year alone (ABD). The impact of the crisis is immediate, as many families are not able to pay for their basic needs, such as food, water, medicine and access to health care and education.
Children, as one of the most vulnerable groups of the society, suffer the most: not only are their immediate needs unmet but the risk of neglect, child labor, violence, abuse and child marriage is heightened and can have a long-lasting impact on their lives.
To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on children in poor households, UNICEF is working hand in hand with the Royal Government of Cambodia to scale up its social protection programme. A new COVID-19 Cash Transfer Programme for ID Poor Households launched in June, aiming to reach an estimate of 540,000 households living in poverty (ID Poor).
Yir Yean, a 24-year-old mother of little Rajit, 18 months old, is one of the women we met at the Chhouk Ksach commune. She was there together with her husband who had traveled all the way from Sihanoukville, to sign up for the COVID-19 Cash Transfer Programme. “We tried everything to avoid this situation”, says Yean. Before the baby was born, the family borrowed money to send Yean’s husband to Thailand where he worked as a laborer at a food processing factory. Unfortunately, the salary was not enough to support the whole family and a year later, he came back home. Now Yean’s husband works as a construction worker in Sihanoukville, a coastal town of Cambodia, once the country’s epicenter of tourism and foreign investment. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and the global financial crisis, Sihanoukville has emptied leaving its many workers struggling to survive. “My husband used to make about US $ 100-200 per month, depending on the work”, says Yean. “But now he is making less money because of coronavirus”, she says holding her baby tight. For Yean and her family, the number one priority is food. “All the money we will receive today will be spent on food. We need food for the family”, she says as she becomes enrolled into the COVID-19 Cash Transfer system. She can access her money at a nearby Wing kiosk, a Cambodian’ mobile banking service provider.
Supported by UNICEF, European Union (EU), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and United Nation Development Fund, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Save the Children, and other partners, the COVID-19 Cash Transfer is designed to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable groups of population, including the needs of children 0-5 years old, persons with disabilities, elderly, and persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Ay Sokhonn, a 54-year-old woman from the Pongror commune in Chong Kal district, lives with her niece, Cvan Kunthea, and her family, including two children, ages five and one. Sokhonn used to work in a rice field but she lost her eyesight and has not been able to work for the last 16 years. “I want to be helpful”, says Sokhonn, “but I cannot see. When the kids were small, I could carry them but now I am afraid of falling and harming them”. Cvan’s husband is the only one with a job in their family of five. “Her husband works in construction but only two weeks a month. He makes very little”, says Sokhonn. When we ask her what she will use the cash for, she says without hesitation: “for food and medicine”.
The Cash Transfer Programme for Poor and Vulnerable Households affected by COvid-19 is the key national Covid-19 mitigation instrument aimed at providing temporary assistance to more than 560,000 households identified as poor (ID Poor 1 and ID Poor 2) through the national ID Poor programme. It is delivered in parallel to the existing Cash Transfer Programme for the Poor Pregnant Women and Children (0-2 years old) and the Scholarship Programme for Children in Primary and Secondary Schools. The programme includes the “On Demand ID Poor” component, allowing people who have fallen into poverty, including because of COVID-19, to apply for poverty assessment to obtain access to financial assistance.
Math Kanha, a 32-year-old mother of three in the Po commune in Preah Vihear province, sits nervously waiting for her turn. She does not have an ID Poor Card and needs to go through an evaluation process to be eligible for cash transfer. “I am worried about the virus, but I am more worried about being able to feed my family and keep my house”, says Kanha. A few years back, Khana’s family borrowed money from a neighbor to build a house. She was always able to pay on time but when the pandemic hit, her husband, a daily worker, couldn’t find enough work. “Some of his employers have left without paying”, says Khana “but we need the money badly”. As soon as she heard from the village chief that she could register as an ID Poor on Demand, Kanha and her daughter Matra, 13, ran to the village commune. There she met with the authorities and scheduled a visit for commune authorities to go to her home and assess her family’s eligibility.
As Kahna swiftly works through paperwork, Matra sits quietly next to her, helping her mother read the documents. “I miss school a lot”, she says, “I like being with my friends, learning science and math”. Unfortunately, Matra has not been able to keep up with online learning as her family has no access to internet. She has been spending most of her time at home, helping her mother. “She is an an excellent cook”, says her mum, “she makes a delicious fried beef”. Matra might be an excellent cook, but her place is not in the kitchen. After high school she is heading straight to University of Medicine. ‘This is my dream, I want to become a doctor”, says Matra confidently.
Expanding social protection systems and programmes such as the Covid-19 cash transfer programme, is critical to addressing immediate financial needs, build family’s resilience and livelihoods, and, importantly, lay the foundation for talented and determined children like Matra to fulfill their potential and become active agents in building the resilience of their communities.