The poor and vulnerable hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic thanked the government for introducing the Cash Transfer Programme, which will reach its second anniversary next week.
The government has released more than $68 million to more than 2.7 million people from more than 680,000 households nationwide since the programme was officially introduced on June 24, 2020.
The government is continuing to make cash payments to the target groups and this will be the 23rd round of payments.
The economic deficit caused by the pandemic threatened to push many Cambodians into poverty, but through the programme – coupled with the introduction of effective measures from the government and the Ministry of Health – people have survive and their daily lives are returning to normal.
Phuong Ratana, a resident of Chak Angre Leu commune’s Prek Ta Kong village in the capital’s Meanchey district, said she received an ID Poor card during the pandemic, with her family collecting 300,000 riel ($75) a month.
“My family has many members. My father is disabled, my husband is a construction worker but I can still take care of my children,” she said.
In addition, Ratana received a separate allowance when she fell pregnant during the pandemic. “When I went to the hospital, I got 40,000 riel and when I gave birth, I got another 200,000 riel. I also received traveling allowances and 40,000 riel each time I took my baby for a vaccination,” she said.
Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude as she thanked the government for providing the assistance, which eased the burden on her family by helping them pay water and electricity bills and their daily food expenses.
Chem Oun of the same village said there are 496 households living in the community, of which about 50 are impoverished.
She said most of the people in the community were poor and faced hunger, but the support from the government, especially during the lockdown, has eased their burden.
“The people did not suffer or remain in extreme poverty, thanks to the government. Some large families received up to 300,000 riel. In addition, the commune chief helped those who did not hold an ID Poor card. He made sure that nobody was left to die of starvation,” she said.
She requested that the government continue to provide cash support for at least another year, as peoples’ lives returned to normalcy.
Chum Sarom, the chief of Svay Pak commune in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district, said that during the pandemic, local officials visited and evaluated each household in order to issue IDPoor cards and help them receive cash transfers from the government.
“We surveyed the resources of each family, and assessed them as poor level 1 (p1), 2 or 3. Most fell into the p1 or p2 category. P3 would indicate they already had a good standard of living,” she said.
Som Rattanak, who lives in Takeo province, said: “The close attention of the government was most welcome, because during the lockdown, we were unable to conduct business. This meant we found ourselves in a difficult situation, so I am grateful for the payments which relieved the financial pressure we were feeling.”
Chhour Sopanha, director of the Social Welfare Department under the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said the government’s close attention to the needs of the vulnerable was obvious.
“The government has so far spent more than $68 million through the cash transfer programme, a clear sign of our care for our people,” he said.
Sopanha said the problem of poverty was alleviated by transferring cash, through IDPoor cards as well as assistance programmes for parents and pregnant women.
“In the past, you could only apply for an IDPoor card once every three years, but during the pandemic, we fast-tracked applications to just two weeks to a month. During the lockdown, we also had a programme in place to help families who had Covid-infected members,” he said.
Pa Chanroeun, president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, hailed the assistance programmes.
“These cash assistance programme are a good way to help the poorer members of society, helping them to survive and also allowing them to work to support themselves,” he said.
He requested that the programmes remain transparent, accountable and equitable and available without discrimination.