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Driving poverty out of Cambodia with the IDPoor card

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Mak Cheah and Mao Teur at the hospital. ©GIZ/Conor Wall

Driving poverty out of Cambodia with the IDPoor card

Effective poverty alleviation requires planned activities that are targeted specifically for this group.

To ensure that Cambodia’s poorest are not left behind, the Ministry of Planning developed the “Identification of Poor Households” (IDPoor) mechanism, which is supported by Germany and Australia through the German Development Cooperation Agency or GIZ.

Based on a participatory identification process that takes place at the village level, poor households receive an IDPoor card that entitles all its members to obtain free healthcare nationwide.

It also allows them to avail themselves of other social services, such as cash transfers for pregnant women and children, school feeding programmes or disability allowances.

With IDPoor’s reach to more than 550,000 households, members can even get connected to running water and obtain lower government service fees.

The Ministry of Planning says this innovative system has helped to identify those in need and ease their burden in the fight against poverty.

To collect data and information for the system to work well, identification and registration of poor households are done when village communities gather for various events and celebrations.

The success of the system can be seen through the lives that have been changed for the better. Take Kung Him, who is 82-years-old and lives in a one-room corrugated metal house in a village in central Cambodia as an example.

She has no family. Her husband died in the early 1980s, and her only child died during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Him used to collect palm leaves which she stitched together to make roof coverings that she could sell.

She received her IDPoor card in 2011 and uses it for her healthcare needs. Last month, when she had to visit the hospital, she produced the card and paid no fees. The medical treatment she received was free.

“I wouldn’t dare go to the hospital without this card. I’m very happy to have it,” Him said while beaming from ear to ear.

In another case, Nel Pholly lives alone in a rented room in one of Phnom Penh’s open sewer slum areas.

The 50-year-old was interviewed by elected village representative group member Hao Sorychan as part of IDPoor’s initial expansion into urban areas.

Being destitute, Pholly relies on the generosity of neighbours who often invite her to share a meal with them.

The IDPoor interview reviewed her housing situation, assets, health and disability status and other circumstances. It determined that Pholly was indeed poor and with no real support from kith or kin.

Today, a very happy Pholly gets access to social services and free health care, all thanks to her IDPoor card.

The elderly are not the only ones whose lives have been improved thanks to the IDPoor card.

Eight-year-old Choub Vy and his mother Vy Naran, 47, were interviewed by village representative group member Mao Vatana inside the grounds of one of Phnom Penh’s pagodas.

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Choub Vy household interview. © GIZ/Conor Wall

They have lived there for the last eight years after kind monks gave them a plot of land there for free. The interview process will determine if the mother and son will be classified as poor and receive and IDPoor card.

Sam Kunthea who is 38, lives alone in Cambodia’s capital. She earns money by collecting recyclable waste such as aluminium cans and plastic bottles.

On a good day, she can make $2.50. The bicycle she uses was a gift from a kind neighbour. She lives rent-free in a shack that the landowner allowed her to construct out of pity.

Being vulnerable, each night she sleeps with a large knife beside her for protection.

In 2017, IDPoor expanded into urban areas for the first time and Sam Kunthea was among the initial recipients of an IDPoor card, which entitles her to free social services.

Mak Cheah who is 24 and her husband Mao Teur, 23, had their first child at the provincial hospital in Kampong Chhnang.

They live with Cheah’s family consisting of seven people in the home. Cheah has a job in a shoe factory while Teur earns money as a daily waged labourer at construction sites.

When their baby was born, she required an IV to fight a respiratory tract infection. She says: “Without IDPoor, we could not afford the treatment. The card is truly a lifesaver.”

The story was part of the exhibition: Leave no one behind – beneficiaries and implementers of IDPoor which ran from June 21 to July 20, 2018.

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