COVID-19 has had a devastating economic impact on Cambodia, particularly Siem Reap, whose main industry is tourism.
- Schools and training institutions have been closed until November, leaving many without education as they don’t have access to the internet or televisions to participate in their school’s online learning.
- 150,000 garment workers have been temporarily suspended and were forced to settle on a third of their monthly income amounting to USD$70, however only half have received this payment. Garment workers stimulate the economy in the informal sector which is made up of street food vendors, hairdressers and transport providers. Each wage earner in the garment sector supports five to six persons in the informal sector via local economic stimulation, therefore the informal sector has been impacted significantly (Phnom Penh Post).
- 90,000 Cambodian migrant workers fled back to the country from Thailand because of COVID-19, leaving them jobless (UNAids)
- Cambodia’s tourism industry, which usually contributes around one-third of GDP, has been decimated. Countless hotels and restaurants have laid off staff, with many of Human and Hope Association’s relatives and friends losing their jobs. The government has issued some USD$40 payments to affected workers in the tourism industry, however this amount puts recipients under the international poverty line of USD$1.90 a day.
- The collapse of growth drivers has hurt economic growth and put at least 1.76 million jobs at risks (World Bank).
- Economists say it’s likely that Cambodia will experience a “U-shaped” recovery, wherein growth rates won’t return to pre-crisis levels for several years.
- An estimated 2.6 million Cambodians have outstanding microfinance loans worth more than $10 billion collectively, and many are unable to repay their loans due to unemployment.
- Whilst Cambodia has reported very low rates of COVID-19, World Health Organization country representative, Dr. Li Ailan, said the situation in Cambodia remains “very, very serious,” despite the low number of reported cases in Cambodia. (VOA Cambodia). There is a strong concern of a second wave of infections, due to poor hygiene and complacency.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 whilst also addressing the severe food insecurity that community members are facing, two projects were implemented by our program partner, Human and Hope Association
Tuk-tuk hygiene outreach
The outreach program began on the 13th of May 2020, and continued for 15 days. Signs were displayed on the side of the tuk-tuks (a mode of transport) with key hygiene messages. Staff stopped at various locations in the villages to talk with the community members and convey vital information from the World Health Organisation about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Information about self-protection, shopping and working in wet markets and practising food safety was conveyed via loudspeaker from the tuk-tuk, and repeated three times every 10 minutes in each of the communes’ villages. Bottles and bars of soap and washable, reusable face masks were distributed to families most in need. The outcomes of this project were:
- 26,500 individuals have increased knowledge from credible sources of practical preventative measures to keep themselves and their families safe in a variety of situations. This is expected to slow and reduce rates of community infection as hand hygiene is one of the most effective actions you can take to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections (WHO 2020).
- 3,500 individuals received face masks and soap. This has provided them with increased capacity to prevent COVID-19.
- Five women (graduates from the sewing program) have generated an income to support their families through the COVID-19 downturn by producing the face masks for distribution.
- Two men whose tuk-tuk business had dried up without tourists received a steady income for 15 days
- Over the longer term, better hygiene practices are expected to reduce illness and preventable deaths in the communities, and increase educational performance of children. The impacts of good hygiene on educational attendance (reduced days of illness due to diarrhoeal diseases) is well documented. (Morrissey TW, Hutchison L, Winsler A Dev Psychol. 2014)
Emergency food relief
Emergency food packages have been distributed to 199 families of the 784 that were identified as food insecure by the Commune Chiefs. Each package included 25kg rice, 20 eggs, 10 cans of fish and 12 packets of noodles, along with liquid soap and face masks. For families with five members, one pack lasts approximately one month. This is the first time Human and Hope Association have provided food packs to the community. They don’t take this lightly, because they always been cautious about the unintended consequences of direct aid. However, knowing that this is an unprecedented situation, and that the community members have nowhere else to turn, this is seen as a priority. Here is some key data about the families that were supported
- The families who received the support had an average of five members in their families.
- No land is available for these families to grow their own food.
- 15 of the families who received support take part in Human and Hope Association’s programs. The remainder hadn’t previously received support from Human and Hope Association.
- All these families consisted of at least one adult who lost their job as a result of COVID-19. They worked in hotels and guesthouses as servers, cleaners, gardeners, and security guards.
We are so grateful to the Goodridge Foundation, Atelier Etica, SE Asia Foundation and numerous individual donors for supporting our COVID-19 response.