Government Reinstates Promise of Red-Zone Cash for Neediest

2 min read
A vegetable vendor stops her bike in front of a Covid-19 restricted zone gate along Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Blvd on May 11, 2021. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)

The government has renewed its promise to give cash aid to low-income people living in the capital’s most restrictive “red zone” lockdown areas, of about $39 to $78 for families and $40 to garment workers, following a string of protests over livelihoods.

Small protests have emerged over food shortages, rents and receiving vaccines in Phnom Penh’s Covid-19 red zones over the past two weeks amid the country’s ongoing coronavirus outbreak. As of Wednesday, the country has more than 12,000 active cases, according to Health Ministry data.

Before the whole of the capital was locked down in April, the government had promised cash aid to families in quarantine, but scrapped the assistance in favor of food aid for red zones. On Tuesday, the government reinstated its promise to distribute cash, based on a needs assessment.

The cash aid will target low-income families, such as the households of construction workers, market staff, garbage collectors and entertainment workers, it said.

Families can receive 156,000 to 311,000 riel, or about $39 to $77.75; garment workers 160,000 riel, about $40; and families of those who died from Covid-19 300,000 riel, or $75.

Ros Sithat, a 31-year-old garment factory worker living in a locked-down area of Stung Meanchey I commune, said she was happy to hear the news.

“I am lacking. I don’t know when the factory is going to reopen. It has been a long time since April 12,” Sithat said.

Kao Poeun, program coordinator at the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, an organization of informal workers, said he hoped the assessment process would not prevent the aid from reaching poor people in need.

In a statement this week, the U.N. delegation in Cambodia said it was “advocating” for access to red zones to help provide food aid, along with Humanitarian Response Forum nongovernmental partners. It had also supported a phone survey of red-zone residents with partner NGOs, it said.

In response to questions, the U.N. said on Wednesday that Phnom Penh City Hall was “willing to facilitate” access. The U.N. did not provide information about the findings of the survey.

Forum partner DanChurchAid declined to comment. Other forum organizations, People in Need and the World Food Program, did not respond to questions. DanChurchAid is a financial donor to CCIM, VOD’s parent organization.

Additional reporting by Michael Dickison

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