Thousands of Messages Seek Emergency Lockdown Food Aid From City Hall

3 min read
Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng speaks into a microphone in front of rice, soy sauce and canned fish to be distributed as emergency food aid, in a photo posted to the Phnom Penh City Hall Facebook page on April 20, 2021.

Thousands of messages requesting emergency food aid have flooded a forum set up by City Hall, as some residents said their household incomes were down to zero because of the lockdown’s rising restrictions and they feared running out of food within days if they didn’t receive help.

Amid the country’s first major surge of Covid-19 cases, the government has shut down factories and businesses, imposed a curfew and travel bans, and banned alcohol sales and gatherings to try to stem the virus’s spread in the capital.

City Hall set up a Telegram group on Sunday to organize emergency food requests, and between 10 a.m. Monday and 4 p.m. Tuesday, the group saw more than 3,400 messages sent by Phnom Penh residents seeking help. By Tuesday evening, the group had more than 45,000 members. 

Garment factory worker Eun Bunset, who lives in a rented room in Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Krom commune, told VOD he was out of work, hadn’t received last month’s wages, and had about three days of food.

“There’s about four cans of rice left, 10 duck eggs, two cans of fish,” he said, adding that he had not received any reply to his message to the group.

“I want them to speed up. Don’t let [me] run out of food,” he said.

Chan Srey Leak, a resident of Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune, said her family of five was also facing food shortages. Her husband was in Kampot province to do construction, but was out of work, she said. She couldn’t get rice and other supplies from relatives in their home provinces due to travel restrictions.

“He has no work. And I have nothing to do at home,” she said. “There’s nothing going in and out now.”

She and her three children had about 10 kilograms of rice left, she said.

Another garment worker, Sieng Srey Pov, also in Toek Thla commune, said prices at the market had doubled since the lockdown. Considering she now had no work, she wouldn’t last long, she said.

“There are three people in the house and none of them have an income,” Srey Pov said.

Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng and City Hall spokesperson Met Measpheakdey could not be reached for comment.

Previously, Sreng instructed the district governors to respond immediately to calls for emergency food assistance from people in lockdown. The government has said 140 tons of rice is available as aid, or 10 tons to each Phnom Penh district.

Meanchey district deputy governor Dy Rath Khemrun said district authorities were working to distribute the food aid to people as requested.

“I’m a little busy. Busy distributing donations,” he said.

Adhoc’s human rights chief Ny Sokha said he hoped the government would be able to meet residents’ livelihood issues amid the lockdown.

The country has seen more than 7,000 cases of Covid-19, the vast majority of them coming since the emergence of the “February 20” cluster. Some 54 people with Covid-19 have died, 49 of them officially attributed to the disease.

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