A Q & A with Thai San of Human and Hope Association

Many community members in Human and Hope Association’s target communes in rural Siem Reap, Cambodia have lost their jobs. They either worked in the tourism industry, or their jobs were indirectly related to the tourism industry, which has become non-existent due to COVID-19. The flow on effect from the loss of these jobs is impacting other industries, including small enterprises. The economic impact on Siem Reap has been horrendous.

The team are now seeing families who don’t have enough food to provide them with adequate nutrition, which will severely impact their health. There are numerous families who have upwards of eight members who need to be fed. They are very concerned that malnutrition, stunting and starvation may occur.

Working with the Chief of one of their communes, Human and Hope Association has obtained a list of the families who are most in need of support, and they are going to be providing them with emergency food relief packages. Each package will include 25kg rice, 20 eggs, 10 cans of fish and 12 packets of noodles. If the vegetables from Human and Hope Association’s on-site farm are matured, they will also be included with the food relief packages.

This project is outside of Human and Hope Association’s usual scope, as they have never provided direct aid before. Human and Hope Association’s Managing Director, Thai San, explains why this short-term fix is necessary.

Is there any government support for people in Cambodia? There hasn’t been any support provided by the government for the general community as of today. There is a plan to provide some support to hotel staff (around USD$40 a month for two months), and factory workers (20% of their salaries). 

How do people get money if they don’t have work? It’s a huge challenge for people to earn money right now. Some people borrow from their family and neighbours if they are in the position to help, and this is pushing them further into debt. Some community members are selling their property to survive. 

How long will the food packages last (just a rough estimate) – One food package will last a family of five approximately one month. 

Are they seeing a lot of people with COVID in Cambodia? – There have been 122 cases in total with 120 recoveries. However, there is a concern about a second wave of infections for the following reasons: 

  • Cambodia’s airways are still open, which creates a high probability of infections from other countries. Neighbouring countries include Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia who travel to Cambodia frequently for business and leisure.
  • Cambodian citizens have begun celebrating their success prematurely, with our project partners in Siem Reap noting that their communities are not following the advice of the government. They are very concerned that Cambodia will fall back into a situation like Singapore. As the team in Cambodia have spent years forming trusting relationships with their community members, people are more likely to listen to their advice
  • Cambodians living in rural areas (such as those targeted by Human and Hope Association) have limited access to education and information about COVID-19, and easily forget information they do receive. This outreach will be repetitive and consistent, and ensure the community members begin/continue to practise healthy preventative habits
  • Monsoon season will soon begin, and if the community members become ill with dengue fever, malaria or the flu, this makes the impact of COVID-19 even more dire should they contract it
  • Should the virus expand its reach in Cambodia, the impact will be unimaginable. World Health Organization (WHO) country representative, Dr. Li Ailan, said the situation in Cambodia remains very, very serious, despite the low number of reported cases in Cambodia. (VOA Cambodia)

How many people are HHA looking to feed? – We are initially looking to feed 199 families, who are considered the most vulnerable in one of our target communes. We have four other target communes with hundreds of additional families who need support, as determined by the Commune Chief’s records. 

How is everyone at HHA getting through this difficult time? (Religion? Just putting one foot in front of the other? Helping the community – but any other things?) – We are getting through this difficult time with gratefulness. Although all our staff have taken a 20% pay cut in order to save our jobs, we are grateful that we are all still employed in jobs that we love, and that we can still help our community members who don’t have any other support. 

To support these emergency food packages, you can make a donation here.