A note of thanks to donors from Hagar Cambodia staff
“In my role as case manager, I see how much this donor support is needed during COVID-19. It really makes a difference to my clients and their families who are struggling to make living,” said Thorng Prany, case manager in NWP. “Many people are staying at home without work and I have noticed the increase in domestic violence, but with this donor support, I can see the difference we are having on the families we work with.”
With Buddhism being the leading religion in Cambodia, Christmas is not celebrated by most of the population. However, Christians still come together to celebrate and there are still lights and trees in the cities!
Due to a recent case of community transmission, all schools have closed down again for another 2 weeks. Gatherings of over 20 people are prohibited and the Ministry of Health has instructed people to wear masks and practice social distancing.
HAGAR’s services and programmes in Cambodia continue to be implemented as normal. However, staff are observing the continual impacts of COVID-19 in the lives of clients and their families.
As reported in the last update, there is evidence that domestic violence and rates of child sexual abuse have been increasing. COVID-19 has also had a significant impact on the nation’s economy with our staff on the ground reporting that 50% of the businesses run by families we work with are experiencing lower income. There are fewer job opportunities in communities and with the Thailand border closed, there are limited options for gaining employment elsewhere. Our staff are concerned about the vulnerability this creates and the potential for illegal migration across the Thailand border and/or the falsehoods traffickers could tell people about their ability to get them across safely and into jobs.
HAGAR continues to work closely with clients and their families during this tough time and supports them as much as possible with food assistance, counselling, and help finding employment. HAGAR staff also continue to work with government and other partners to coordinate the provision of resources to families impacted by the recent floods. Such support is deeply appreciated by those who receive it.
Survivor in Focus
Bopha is one example of someone whose situation has been greatly improved because of HAGAR staff and donors. Bopha is a widowed woman with 3 children, one of whom is a client of HAGAR’s. At HAGAR, we don’t just work directly with our young clients but their families as well, and due to the support of HAGAR’s counsellor and team, this small family has become more resilient. Previously, Bopha had been travelling to Thailand to make money to support her family and leaving the children with her mother. But when COVID-19 hit and the borders closed, Bopha had to try and find new ways to support her family. HAGAR’s case manager and counsellor have been helping the family and our economic empowerment team have also assisted Bopha in setting up a small shop. From this shop, Bopha is now making a daily income!
Bopha said to a HAGAR staff member recently:
“Without your support…I cannot stand here today with my small shop to make my daily income and wage. I…I have nothing to say for your support to my family, besides placing both my palms together to wish and bless your team and work…and I will try my best to make my shop running to support my daughter.
14 September Update
As of 14 September 2020, Cambodia has recorded 275 confirmed cases and almost all have recovered from the infection. There are no deaths linked to COVID-19. The majority of confirmed cases (more than 85%) are imported. Currently, there is no community transmission at this time of reporting.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) policy and technical advice on local preparedness and strengthening health systems have been implemented. The MoH continues to remind the public to stay safe and healthy by following the technical advice, especially during major celebrations such as events like Pchum Ben at the pagodas where large crowds are expected.
About 100,000 Cambodia migrants have left Thailand to go home as they become unemployed due to loss of jobs. Within Cambodia, more than 150,000 workers lost their jobs due to the closure and suspension of hundreds of factories. Responding to the increasing unemployment rates, the Cambodia Government has provided social support packages with monthly financial assistance to affected and very poor families with identification cards.
On August 26, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports announced for kindergartens, primary and secondary schools (both public and private schools) to reopen with safe distancing measures and proper disinfection practices in place. Students are expected to be back in school starting November. HAGAR clients are looking forward to this with great excitement.
Even though the COVID-19 situation in Cambodia has improved with zero community transmissions, HAGAR clients continue to face immense economic and job challenges and struggle to make ends meet.
To alleviate the increasing mental and financial stress on clients and their families, Hagar Cambodia has been providing food relief, counselling and livelihood and re-employment assistance to help them tide through this difficult period. Our counsellors are teaching relaxation techniques and other useful coping skills to clients to help them better manage their emotions and stress during this time. While counsellors are now able to visit and provide counselling to the clients face to face, communal activities are still prohibited. Hence, community outreach trainings and other major project activities remain suspended.
During this period, food and other daily necessities, school supplies and hygiene support have helped HAGAR clients and their families to cope with their basic needs. Unfortunately, the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities, exposing weaknesses in Cambodia’s social, political and economic systems.
“I would like to thank HAGAR for their support during these difficult times. My family has had many problems in recent months. I have no job, my youngest daughter had problems, and there are a lot of people in my family, and we need food to eat,” said Dara, father of a HAGAR client.
“At first, I thought I would have to go to Thailand to find work, even though travel there is illegal. But after talking to my daughter’s case manager, we discussed other ways I could earn an income and now we have a small shop that brings in a regular income to support some of the family and I continue growing crops, raising animals and now my sons and daughter can continue their learning and reading even though the school is closed.”
Hagar Cambodia’s Northwest Project (NWP) continues to support our clients and their families to generate stable income in order to reduce the migration rate. We deliver capacity building to help them establish small businesses. HAGAR continues to support education for our clients to make sure that they are able to read and write while Cambodian schools are closed.
“I enjoy learning to read and write at home with my brother,” said 9yo Bopha, HAGAR client. “I can remember all the letters clearly when my brother teaches me.”
Said Mrs Somphorse, a community teacher, “It is much appreciated with HAGAR’s work on supporting educational materials to children at the community who are unable to utilise online and e-learning approaches due to lack of internet access and grim living conditions.”
4 August Update
As at the 4th August, Cambodia has had 240 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 197 people have recovered fully and 43 people remain in hospital receiving treatment. There have been no deaths.
The Government restrictions allow for HAGAR staff to travel to meet clients in their homes but the Government continues to urge people to adopt preventative measures including wearing masks, practicing social distancing and keeping group meetings to 10 people or less. 20 private schools have been allowed to open but every other school remains closed and students are studying online from home.
When meeting with clients, HAGAR staff are focusing on helping them overcome their feelings of fear and anxiety that are arising because of COVID-19 both in Cambodia and globally. There is real concern about an outbreak of the virus and community transmission. Our Case Managers are providing information to our clients and their families about how to stay safe and protected, and our Counsellors have been teaching them different coping techniques. HAGAR staff are keeping a close eye on all clients and their situations, and updating their care plans as needed.
Some of our younger clients are also feeling stressed about the fact that they haven’t been at school since March and, in addition to missing their friends, are struggling with their studies. Many of our clients are unable to access the Internet or the TV, and have parents who are working full-time and thus do not have the time to help them with their studies. Our Case Managers work with the families to support the clients’ education at home. The families include foster families, clients’ original families, or their next of kin who are caring for them.
Some of our clients have also lost their jobs. This loss of income has resulted in them struggling to provide for their families and HAGAR has been providing emergency support packages to 48 clients during this time. HAGAR Case Managers are looking for employment opportunities and some clients are being assisted in opening up their own small businesses.
HAGAR Cambodia is operating at 100% capacity, and while recovery plans have had to be tailored to factor in the impact of COVID, staff remain absolutely committed to meeting client needs and pursuing the long-term goal of transforming lives.
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!”
15 May Update
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.
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.