A lifeline for Cambodians at risk as poverty doubles during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Malai Day, a beneficiary of the IDPoor cash transfer program in Cambodia, by Sok Chan

The government-issued IDPoor Card provides Malai Day, a 42-year-old single mother of four living in Battambang Province, Cambodia, with a lifeline since May 2020. With the card, she is entitled to 176,000 riyals (about $ 43.45) per month, to support Herself and her family, using mostly to purchase dry food ingredients and rice, and products with a longer shelf life, which can be rationed throughout the month.

“We are collecting money from the money transfer service,” she says. During the Covid-19 Pandemic, it has been a great help to my family. In addition, if at any time we need to go to the hospital, we receive medical treatment, care and medication for free. ”

No cash, cards only

As a result of the pandemic, poverty in Cambodia is expected to nearly double: the United Nations estimates it can reach around 17.6 percent of the population. With these stark expectations in mind, it is the government, along with the partners that include United Nations Development Programme And the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), To strengthen the level of social protection in the country. The United Nations research indicated that the emergency social protection program would significantly improve economic growth and the well-being of the most vulnerable.

United Nations agencies and other partners focused on supporting the new “Cash Transfer Program for Poor and Vulnerable Families”, by providing the digital tools needed to make it run smoothly and efficiently, and by ensuring that the nearly 700,000 people listed in the program’s database were received. The money is in non-cash form, either through their phone or, like Miss Yum, via a card.

UNDP Cambodia / Kimheang Toun

A Cambodian woman is registered with the IDPoor Card.

With support from the Australian government, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) provided Cambodian Ministry of Planning employees with approximately 1,700 tablets and software, allowing them to register families who had recently fallen into poverty as a result of the economic slowdown.

“The government of Australia and the United Nations Development Program have provided these tablets to the Ministry of Planning so that all those registered as poor can obtain a cash transfer,” says Nick Beresford, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program in Cambodia. “This expands the UN’s work on social protection and helps the Royal Government of Cambodia build a robust and fully digital program for IDPs.”

In Sayyida Yum village, many families received an IDP card. “The officials registered our names in an electronic system so that everyone gets what they are entitled to,” she says, adding that each family first went through an interview process with local officials.

UNDP Cambodia / Kimheang Toun

Nick Beresford (left), Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program in Cambodia, visits the community that benefits from cash transfers.

Under the program, each eligible and registered household receives either $ 20 or $ 30 per month, as a base benefit. In addition, the family receives additional funds for members of vulnerable groups including pregnant women, children under the age of two, the elderly, people with disabilities and people with HIV.

My family is classified as a Class A poor family because I am a widow and have four children. However, some poor families are struggling, but since their living standards are not difficult, they were classified as second-level poor families, ”says Ms. Yum.

In addition to supporting this emergency cash transfer program, the United Nations is supporting the Cambodian government in other ways. This includes purchasing vital medical equipment, ranging from hazardous waste bags to ventilators and ambulances, and providing technical support to the Ministry of Planning, through the production of communication and awareness materials related to COVID-19.

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