While many regions may be seeing a downward slope in reports of Covid-19 cases, Cambodia is experiencing its first wave of infections.
Largely spared by the pandemic in 2020, the country began seeing a rise in positive cases in February of this year. Numbers steadily rose until May, and have remained mostly stagnant since.
“We have hundreds of new cases a day, and now it’s spreading to the provinces,” says Edith Van Wijngaarden, HI’s country manager for Cambodia. “The rates haven’t decreased over the past few weeks, and the real numbers may be even higher than the official figures.”
In response to the rapid spread of the virus, strict government restrictions were set in place to contain further contamination. However, efforts to stifle one crisis have further fuelled another. Following the mandatory closing of commerce, travel and gatherings, people found themselves in the midst of a serious economic crisis, with no means to make a living.
“The situation has been really difficult,” Edith Van Wijngaarden explains.
“People in the high-risk, or “red” zones could not even access food. Many people have lost their jobs. There is no more tourism, so everyone in that industry is struggling. There were outbreaks in the garment factories.. The entire economic situation is degrading.”
While infection prospects are looking more hopeful with a promising vaccination plan in place, the government has been obligated to prematurely lift restrictions in hopes of providing some economic relief, thus renewing risks posed by the current wave of cases.
HI responds in person and from a distance
Despite the difficulties imposed by both the pandemic and economic crises, HI’s teams have continued to support Cambodia’s most vulnerable people.
In addition to providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce Covid-19 infection risk amongst beneficiaries, HI is distributing food kits to those affected by loss of income, and continues to provide rehabilitation services to people living with disabilities. Since February, the team has implemented in-person care as well as remote services to ensure accessibility amid the restrictions. This has been particularly important in teaching parents to care for children with disabilities at home.
“Our rehabilitation center is still up and running,” Edith Van Wijngaarden says. “It has had to open and close a little, but it hasn’t impacted our ability to support the community. When we have no other option, we follow up and support them remotely. We are currently training 5 other centers to do remote rehabilitation as well, given the context.”