Ministry and UN Cambodia talk increases to safety net

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Children walk a cart near a school in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district in May. Heng Chivoan

The UN in Cambodia and the social welfare department under the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation’s Directorate-General of Technical Affairs are working together to strengthen social protections and social assistance programmes, with particular attention being paid to the homeless population in Phnom Penh.

Social welfare director Chhour Sopanha said his department held an online consultative meeting with the working group of development partners of the UN in Cambodia on issues concerning women working in the entertainment sector and homeless people living on the streets in the capital during the pandemic period.

He said the two sides had discussed opportunities for cooperation and also touched on the topic of transferring homeless people from quarantine sites to rehabilitation centres and providing them with Covid-19 vaccinations. They also discussed support for women working in the entertainment sector such as bars, nightclubs and KTVs.

He said that to date about 90 per cent of the more than 1,000 homeless people in Phnom Penh have been vaccinated against Covid-19. They have also received some benefits from the cash handout programme for the poor.

According to Sopanha, authorities had collected homeless women from some target locations such as the Wat Phnom area in Daun Penh district and brought them to rehabilitation centres. The department’s working group then sent them back to their families after completing the programme.

“If the women had families, we sent them back to their families. If they needed counselling or help navigating the poverty assistance system, we helped them contact the authorities to apply for an equity card,” he said.

“After applying for an equity card, the authorities will interview them immediately if they are truly poor people. After a maximum of 15 days, they will receive the card to receive cash assistance,” he said.

Mom Chandany, director of the Municipal Department of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, declined to comment on September 14.