Cambodia has had no new COVID-19 cases reported for 30 days straight. Total confirmed cases are 122 as of Tuesday, 12 May. 121 cases have been cured and discharged from hospital and only 1 still active.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO), Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Minister of Health have called on the public to remain cautious about COVID-19. They reminded the community that a second wave of the virus is a “real threat”.
Furthermore, Cambodia’s key economic pillars, tourism and garment industries have all been hit severely with several hundred thousand formal and informal workers being affected in this sector alone.
More than 180 factories in Cambodia have suspended operations while another 60 are at risk of closure. The situation impacts 200,000 garment workers directly and two million others indirectly according to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC).
The Government is reassessing the cost of assistance to laid-off garment workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as it braces itself to spend more on rising unemployment according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Religious gatherings, schools, casinos and entertainment venues also remain closed.
Although schools remain closed, the Government continues to provide online teaching and learning. Some of our clients don’t have a smartphone or can’t access the Internet which makes studying difficult. More recently, the Government also introduced a distance e-learning programme on TV. However, our clients in remote villages do not have access to this.
Due to the warnings from the Government and the WHO, the counsellors are still unable to physically visit their clients, so they continue to rely on phone counselling.
On a more positive note, we are seeing the level of stress and anxiety of some clients reduce as the COVID-19 situation eases.
Survivor in Focus
Kakada is 22 years old and is living in Phnom Penh. He returned to live with his mother and stepfather about a year ago. He currently studies International Business Management at the university.
Kakada prefers to run his own business rather than work for others. He was selling some preloved products (bells and bags) online when he had free time from his study. His business was doing very well and he was able to make money to support his living costs and education fees. However, things became extremely challenging and he had to stop his business in April due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, the supplier whom he sourced his items from had to shut down.
Since his school and business have been closed, Kakada stays at home with his mother. His mother is able to give him some daily food and he also gets some support from his friends at church. He is helping his mother with the house chores and doing self-study at home.
“It is a difficult time for me as I am an adult. I really don’t want to depend on others as they are also in a difficult time as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. I feel concerned [that] when the school re-opens and my business is still not working out, that I need to pay for stationery, research and food.”
The case manager has assessed his needs and HAGAR is going to provide emergency support including a food package and hygiene essentials to Kakada for 3 months that will last him from May to July. HAGAR will reassess his needs after this period. Kakada expressed, “I am happy that HAGAR is going to support me during this hard time. Thank you very much for thinking of me and helping me!”
28 April Update
As at Tuesday, 28th of April, there have been 122 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cambodia. However, 98% of these cases have recovered and have been discharged from the hospital, and there are no new cases reported in the last two weeks. The Cambodian government has warned that the coronavirus situation in Cambodia is still in the early stages and that a second wave of cases could occur at any time. Religious gatherings, schools and entertainment venues all remain closed.
Hagar Cambodia’s Case Managers continue to conduct assessments with clients and their families to identify needs and provide emergency support. Recently, the Economic Empowerment team worked with a supplier on a clean water project on behalf of a family living in a remote area who couldn’t get access to clean water. Finally, this project was successfully completed and two HAGAR clients and their mother can now obtain clean water from the well. They can also use the water from the well for their day-to-day living needs, gardening and raising of animals.
Since there have been no new cases of COVID-19 in Cambodia in the last two weeks, some travel exceptions have been made and Hagar Cambodia staff are now also permitted to travel for certain approved activities.
Hagar Cambodia staff were therefore able to travel to and support a client through her court case last week and they sent through this account of the day.
Champa is 17 years old. She is also a young mother of a 2-year-old daughter, who was born out of rape when she was 14. Her court case has been ongoing and HAGAR team has been providing support to her in this process.
Her court case was supposed to happen in early April. However, her case was postponed until the end of April due to COVID-19 outbreak in Cambodia. The court hearing finally took place and our HAGAR lawyer and counsellor attended, and provided legal support to Champa in the courtroom, and counselling to ensure that she felt emotionally supported.
“I am thankful that HAGAR’s staff dedicated their time to support my court proceeding and emotionally support to me. I would not be able to do it without a clear court proceeding explanation.”
Hagar Cambodia staff said of Champa’s court case, “Although COVID-19 is a global threat and challenge, the survivors’ justice is still one of HAGAR’s top priorities.”
Such a story is a beautiful illustration of HAGAR’s commitment to the women and children whom we work with, and that this commitment is unchanged even in COVID-19. Some of our other clients are experiencing a loss of employment and income because of the reduced capacity of businesses, and others continue to struggle emotionally, but HAGAR will continue to do everything we can to assist at this time.
6 April Update
As at Monday, 6 April, there were 114 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Cambodia. The Government is keeping a close eye on the situation and last week they made the decision to cancel all Khmer New Year celebrations (traditionally Khmer New Year is one of the largest festivals in Cambodia and the whole week is a dedicated public holiday). This decision was made to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into local communities. The Prime Minister has also said that the estimated 50,000 Cambodians who have travelled back home from neighbouring countries are being closely monitored and placed in quarantine where possible. The Government has instructed all NGO’s to freeze their intake of new clients to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Hagar staff continue to work from the office however instead of travelling to meet existing clients, staff now connect with clients over the phone and via messenger. Hagar’s Case Managers follow up with clients once a week and are working to ensure that clients understand how to protect themselves from COVID-19 by providing regular information based on local government and WHO guidelines.
COVID-19 is also having an impact on Hagar’s clients and their families. Some have said that they are experiencing feelings of isolation and depression and others have lost their jobs and incomes (or fear they soon will). There is general anxiety and fear as to what will happen to their financial and living situations should COVID-19 spread. Hagar’s Case Managers and Economic Empowerment team are working together to provide advice and emergency support to the clients and families who have lost their job and income.
Hagar client, Mesa has been a recipient of this income support recently. She is 25 years old and a school teacher. With the Cambodian Government closing schools in the middle of March to prevent the spread of the virus, Mesa lost her job and income. As a result, one of our Hagar Case Managers has been working with Mesa to support her through this time, educate her about COVID-19, help her develop a safety plan and identify her basic needs during the crisis. Now Hagar is supporting her family through rent and daily food support. Mesa said:
“I feel warm and supported as my case manager calls me regularly and works with me closely. Thank you very much Hagar for supporting me during this difficult situation. Without the support, it will be difficult for me as well as my brother and sister.”
Mesa’s story is an example of the fact that while the way Hagar staff deliver their services has changed, the core mission of transforming lives and walking the journey with people hasn’t.
Your support enables us to continue our vital work with survivors like Mesa. Thank you.
Hagar pursues the highest degree of care and protection for each of its clients. To protect the identity of our clients, names have been changed and images do not necessarily represent the individual profiled.