Beating hunger and food insecurity during COVID-19
“Because of Coronavirus, I can’t go to school. I am bored and I want to play with my friends and play football; and I miss my teacher,” says ten-years-old Doeurn. He lives with his 43-year-old mother, Sum, who is a single parent and his 12-year-old brother, Odom, and 8-year-olld Doung, the youngest in the family.
A small cottage (made by the mother and the children) built on the land that the family doesn't own, is a house where Doeurn lives with his family. Located in Phnum Proek, northwestern of Cambodia, it is about 411 Km from Phnom Penh City, closer to Thailand.
Sum is the sole breadwinner and the work that she does is seasonal. “It’s difficult being a mother and a father at the same time; it’s such a big responsibility,” says. Sum. After the divorce, Sum left with her three children and tried finding a job as a factory worker in Poipet (Khmer-Thai International border). Sum needed all the money she could get and did over-time, which made a workaholic. All the time she could spend with her children was only during bed time.
Recalling an incident “I remember, one day I arrived at home, my second son was having a fever, 39 degrees Celsius. I was scare I would lose him.”. Less time spent with the children, not enough food to eat, living in a small rental room, the children couldn’t go to school and were prone to falling sick (fever, diarrhea, typhoid fever, and dengue fever). Prioritizing her children’s happines Sum changed her job and juggled being a nanny and sewing clothes at home instead. Sum could earn around 40,000 riels (10.00 USD) for two to three days work, but large amounts of the income was sent for Sum’s father’s treatment in Phnum Proek District.
Sum and the children moved to Phnom Prek to take care of her father until he passed away. “I was hopeless and thinking about suicide since I had nothing but only the three sons,” says Sum. Luckily, she was allowed to live on a free-land a bit aaway from the community.
“I work even harder than a man does earning money and taking care of my children,” says Sum. In Phnum Proek, Sum worked seasonally in a rice field. She accepted the job because it enable her to return home in the evening so that she has time with the children.
Life was just getting back to normal for Sum. When COVID-19 struck.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 130 cases of the coronavirus infection have been confirmed found in Cambodia, but 128 are recovered. Although Cambodia has a relatively small number of infections compared to its neighboring countries, Cambodia’s economy is struggling like many in the world. There are many people unemployed; most vulnerable children and families have been worst affected; especially their livelihood.
As per World Bank’s latest Economic Update for Cambodia, in the Time of COVID-19, the economy in 2020 is expected to register its slowest growth since 1994, contracting by between -1 percent and -2.9 percent.
Living a bit far in the community, the family doesn’t face the risk of contracting COVID-19. By receiving information and education through World Vision International – Cambodia (WVI-C) staff home visit and awareness, in collaboration with Health Center, Village Health Support Group (VHSG), local authorities, the family has learned tips on how to protected themselves from COVID-19 by applying and practicing self-hygiene.
“A mask is more expensive than the 1 kg of rice. I cannot afford it. It was helpful to get the mark from World Vision and the training as well,” says by Sum.
Education is another area that that children struggle with, post COVID-19.
“We like to study but the door is closed, we cannot learn through TV programme,” says Odom. Eager to learn, the children found resourceful ways to access the TV lessons. Pleading with their neighbors they got access to the online classes created and scheduled by the government due to school shut down. Although Sum is uneducated, she encourages her children to study at home.
Apart from all these challenges, the family’s livelihood is also at risk. “I couldn’t sleep because next few days our rice supply would have finished and I have no money left to buy more. We ate less to save up for the next days,” says Sum in tears.
This time last year, Sum worked at cassava farm which earned her money for the family, but during the Coronavirus, now the mother of three is jobless and stays home since the border is closed, and agricultural products that are mainly exported to Thailand is stuck.
Jobs are getting lesser and lesser in the area but food and hygiene & sanitizer materials (Gel/Alcohol hand sanitizer and mask) are getting more expensive than the family’s buying capacity. To survive, Sum and her children looked for food in the nearby forest. But, food is not available every day. "The days when food was not affordable, the family had only rice as our meal, and it took a few days to replenish our supplies. We were down to our last little in a rice-jar, just enough to make porridge, when we received World Vision support. We can survive," says Sum getting emotional about the support provided.
As the family struggled to survive and copy with their new normal of hunger, loss of livelihood and limited access to education, World Vision as part of the COVID-19 response, in Cambodia, provided the family with emergency food kit consisting of 25kg of rice, a box of noodle, canned fish, salt, vegetable oil, soy source, and fish sauce.
The children joyfully carry the food home.
“I want to eat noodle this dinner,” says Odom. Doeurn and his younger also agree and smile and give the noodle to their mother to make at home. “I will eat two plates of rice too,” says Doeurn.
During the period of unemployment, the support provided by World Vison helps most vulnerable children/families to beat hunger. Since the pandemic is still having a hold on the lives of the poor, Sum would like to start growing vegetable around the house to ensure the family’s economic stability however the family needs some support to make this a success.
World Vision works with the vulnerable and the most vulnerable children and families. World Vision International - Cambodia has been providing emergency food supplies to the families affected by the COVID-19 and donating hygiene kits to health centers. Further, World Vision has been partnering with community leaders to raise awareness on COVID-19 prevention. Until 17th June 2020, 840,852 people, including 326,244 children across 1,416 villages, have been reached through World Vision's COVID-19 response.
The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Cambodia’s main drivers of economic growth - tourism, manufacturing exports, and construction - which together account for more than 70 percent of the country’s growth and almost 40 percent of paid employment. As a result, the economy in 2020 is expected to register its slowest growth since 1994, contracting by between -1 percent and -2.9 percent, according to Cambodia in the Time of COVID-19, the World Bank’s latest Economic Update for Cambodia.
Poverty in 2020 could increase among households involved in key sectors like tourism, construction, trade, manufacturing and the garment industry by between 3 to 11 percentage points higher than at baseline, or in the absence of COVID-19. The fiscal deficit could reach its highest level in 22 years.
The collapse of growth drivers has hurt economic growth and put at least 1.76 million jobs at risks
Learn more about and/or support World Vision’s global work to limit the spread of COVID-19 and support the children impacted by it on our COVID-19 Emergency Response Page.